Tanegashima

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Tanegashima
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
OsumiIslands.png
Geography
Location East China Sea
Coordinates 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)
Country
Japan
Kagoshima Prefecture
Demographics
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.

Geography[edit]

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.

History[edit]

Tanegashima has been settled since at least the Jomon period. Burial sites 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]

Tanegashima is first mentioned in written documents of the Chinese Sui Dynasty of the 6th century, and in the Japanese Shoku Nihongi in an entry dated 702. It formed part of ancient Tane Province. It was often mentioned in the diaries of travelers between Tang Dynasty China and Nara period Japan.

During the Edo period, Yakushima was ruled by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Domain and was considered part of Ōsumi Province. Following the Meiji restoration, the island has been administered as part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Introduction of firearms into Japan[edit]

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

This island is celebrated as the site of the first known contact of Europe and the Japanese, in 1543. A Ryukyuan trading post had been established there several decades earlier, and all traffic from the Ryukyus to Kagoshima on Kyushu, in southern Japan, was obliged to pass through this station. Thus it was that the Portuguese ship, having been blown off course from China to Okinawa made their way to Tanegashima, and not directly to Japan proper.[3]

A "Tanegashima" gun

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. 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.

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. 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 Hocho" (Tanegashima knives), used by chefs, and "Tane-basami" (Tanegashima scissors), preferred by many for the art of Bonsai.

Climate[edit]

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
(56.8)
14.4
(57.9)
16.8
(62.2)
20.7
(69.3)
23.5
(74.3)
26.1
(79)
29.7
(85.5)
30.3
(86.5)
28.4
(83.1)
24.4
(75.9)
20.4
(68.7)
16.1
(61)
22.05
(71.68)
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.2
(52.2)
11.7
(53.1)
14.0
(57.2)
17.8
(64)
20.7
(69.3)
23.5
(74.3)
27.0
(80.6)
27.5
(81.5)
25.6
(78.1)
21.8
(71.2)
17.7
(63.9)
13.5
(56.3)
19.33
(66.81)
Average low °C (°F) 8.5
(47.3)
9.0
(48.2)
11.2
(52.2)
15.0
(59)
18.2
(64.8)
21.3
(70.3)
24.8
(76.6)
25.2
(77.4)
23.3
(73.9)
19.2
(66.6)
15.0
(59)
10.7
(51.3)
16.78
(62.22)
Precipitation mm (inches) 105.9
(4.169)
104.8
(4.126)
160.3
(6.311)
207.4
(8.165)
287.9
(11.335)
351.8
(13.85)
189.0
(7.441)
205.2
(8.079)
253.2
(9.969)
161.2
(6.346)
117.6
(4.63)
93.3
(3.673)
2,237.6
(88.094)
 % 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) [4]

Tanegashima Space Center[edit]

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

The headquarters of 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.[5]

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]