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For the Japanese matchlock, see Tanegashima (Japanese matchlock).
Native name: Japanese: 種子島
Tanegashima location.jpg
Tanegashima is the easternmost of the Ōsumi Islands, just south of the major island of Kyushu
Location East China Sea
Coordinates 30°34′26″N 130°58′52″E / 30.57389°N 130.98111°E / 30.57389; 130.98111Coordinates: 30°34′26″N 130°58′52″E / 30.57389°N 130.98111°E / 30.57389; 130.98111
Archipelago Osumi Islands
Area 444.99 km2 (171.81 sq mi)
Length 57.2 km (35.54 mi)
Coastline 186 km (115.6 mi)
Highest elevation 282 m (925 ft)
Kagoshima Prefecture
Population 33,000 (as of 2010)
Ethnic groups Japanese

Tanegashima (種子島?) is one of the Ōsumi Islands belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The island, 444.99 km² in area, is the second largest of the Ōsumi Islands, and has a population of 33,000 persons. Access to the island is by ferry, or by air to New Tanegashima Airport. Administratively, the island is divided into the city, Nishinoomote, and the two towns, Nakatane and Minamitane. The towns belong to Kumage District.


Tanegashima is the easternmost and the second largest (after Yakushima) of the Osumi Islands. It is located approximately 43 kilometres (23 nmi) south of the southern tip of Osumi Peninsula in southern Kyushu, or 115 kilometres (62 nmi) south of Kagoshima. The Vincennes Strait (Yakushima Kaikyō) separates it from Yakushima.

The island is of volcanic origin; however, unlike neighboring Yakushima, it presents a flat appearance, with its highest elevation at only 282 metres (925 ft) above sea level. The island has a length of 57 kilometres (31 nmi) and a width ranging from 5 kilometres (2.7 nmi) to 10 kilometres (5.4 nmi). The climate is subtropical.


Tanegashima has a long history with Kofun. Other burials on Tanegashima, namely the Yokomine and Hirota sites, attest to a uniquely well-developed Yayoi period culture at the end of the 4th century AD.[1] The artifacts include magatama, an engraved pendant, and emblems with apparent writing.[2]

During the Nara period, the state of Japan began to contact Tanegashima. According to the Nihonshoki, the imperial court banqueted islanders of Tanegashima in 677. In 679, the court sent to the island a mission, who returned in 681. Other missions to the island mentioned in the book were of 683 and 695. According to the Shoku Nihongi, people from Tane, Yaku, Amami and Dokan (possibly Tokunoshima) came to the imperial court to pay tribute in 699. These activities resulted in the establishment of Tane Province on the island in 702.[3] Tane Province lasted until 824 and was merged into Ōsumi Province.

Sometime around 1140, the whole island of Tanegashima became part of the Shimazu Estate, the largest medieval shōen of Japan. In the early Kamakura period, the positions of the land steward of the Shimazu Estate and the military governor of Ōsumi Province were given to the Shimazu clan. However, the clan lost these positions to the Hōjō clan, the de facto ruler of the shogunate. The Hōjō clan sent the Higo clan as deputy governors. A branch line of the Higo clan made itself autonomous on Tanegashima after the Hōjō clan was annihilated and began to claim the clan name of Tanegashima.[4]

The Tanegashima clan ruled the island until the Meiji restoration. The Tanegashima clan enjoyed a high degree of autonomy until Shimazu unified southern Kyūshū in the late 16th century, and after that, served as a top-ranking retainer to the Satsuma domain. Following the Meiji restoration, the island has been administered as part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Introduction of firearms into Japan[edit]

Tanegashima is traditionally known as the site of the introduction of European firearms to Japan in 1542. Until modern times, firearms were colloquially known in Japan as "Tanegashima", due to the belief that they were introduced by the Portuguese on board that ship.[5]

In his memoirs published in 1614, Portuguese adventurer turned author, Fernão Mendes Pinto placed himself in that first landing party, although this claim has been roundly discredited and in fact contradicts with his claims to be simultaneously in Burma at the time. However, Mendes Pinto does appear to have visited Tanegashima soon thereafter. The Europeans had arrived to trade, not only guns, but also soap, tobacco and other goods unknown in medieval Japan, for the Japanese goods.

A "Tanegashima" gun
Portuguese escudo commemorating the Portuguese arrival at Tanegashima
First Westerners in Japan in 1542, by Hokusai (1817 woodblock painting)

During the Muromachi period, Tanegashima functioned as a relay station of one of the main routes of Chinese trade that connected Sakai to Ningbo. The Tanegashima clan cooperated with the Hosokawa clan, one of two powers who controlled Chinese trade. The clan also maintained a firm connection to Honnō-ji Temple of Kyoto. These account for the rapid spread of firearms from Tanegashima to central Japan.[6]

Knife industry[edit]

Edge tools (particularly knives and scissors) made in Tanegashima are famous traditional handicrafts in Japan. Craftsmen in Tanegashima have kept alive traditional techniques for forging and sharpening iron tools. Tanegashima is also famous as the center of iron sand production. The technique has been around since about 1185 when the Taira clan were exiled here from Kyoto by Minamoto no Yoritomo, taking with them craftsmen and chefs from Kyoto. The people of the island speak with a Kyoto accent even now, rather than a Kyūshū or Kagoshima accent, despite its proximity to Kyūshū.[citation needed] These craftsmen were the original users of the distinct techniques used for forging and sharpening. The technique is unique in the world, and produces such tools as "Tanegashima Hōchō" (Tanegashima knives), used by chefs, and "Tane-basami" (Tanegashima scissors), preferred by many for the art of Bonsai.


Tanegashima has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with very warm summers and mild winters. Precipitation is high throughout the year, but is highest in the months of May, June and September.

Climate data for Tanegashima
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.2
Average low °C (°F) 8.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 105.9
Average relative humidity (%) 68 69 71 75 79 85 85 83 81 73 70 68 75.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 123.0 114.0 143.5 147.4 158.1 138.6 234.5 238.2 182.5 169.8 133.8 130.5 1,913.9
Source: NOAA (1961-1990) [7]

Tanegashima Space Center[edit]

The H-IIA F11 launch vehicle lifting off from Tanegashima Space Center

Run by JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Tanegashima Space Center spaceport is located at the southeastern end of the island.

Total solar eclipse in 2009[edit]

Sporting events[edit]

The Tanegashima "Rocket Marathon" takes place in March each year.[8]

Notable people[edit]


  • Lidon, Olof. Tanegashima: The Arrival of Europe in Japan, NIAS Press (2002) ISBN 8791114128

External links[edit]


  1. ^ http://archaeology.jp/sites/2008/hirota.htm
  2. ^ http://www.rekihaku.ac.jp/english/exhibitions/project/o020319.html
  3. ^ Suzuki Yasutami 鈴木靖民 (1997). "Nantō-jin no raichō wo meguru kisoteki kōsatsu 南島人の来朝をめぐる基礎的考察". Higashi Ajia to Nihon 東アジアと日本 (in Japanese). pp. 347–398. 
  4. ^ Kamiyaku-chō kyōdoshi henshū-iinkai 上屋久町郷土誌編集委員会, ed. (1984). Kamiyaku-chō kyōdoshi 上屋久町郷土誌. Kamiyaku-chō Kyōiku-iinkai 上屋久町教育委員会. 
  5. ^ Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1334–1615. Stanford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 0804705259. 
  6. ^ Yara Ken'ichirō 屋良健一郎 (2012). "Chūsei kōki no Tanegashima-shi to minami Kyūshū kaiiki 中世後期の種子島氏と南九州海域". Shigaku-zasshi 史学雑誌 121 (11): 1–36. 
  7. ^ "Tanegashima Climate Normals 1961-1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ JAXA March 2005 News

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanegashima — Please support Wikipedia.
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