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.

Native name:
Japanese: 種子島
Tanegashima ISS048
NASA photo of Tanegashima
Tanegashima location
Tanegashima is the easternmost of the Ōsumi Islands, just south of the major island of Kyushu
LocationEast China Sea
Coordinates30°34′26″N 130°58′52″E / 30.57389°N 130.98111°ECoordinates: 30°34′26″N 130°58′52″E / 30.57389°N 130.98111°E
ArchipelagoŌsumi Islands
Area444.99 km2 (171.81 sq mi)
Length57.2 km (35.54 mi)
Coastline186 km (115.6 mi)
Highest elevation282 m (925 ft)
Kagoshima Prefecture
Population33,000 (2010)
Ethnic groupsJapanese


In the vicinity of Inu Castle Coast, Daikoya District

Tanegashima is the easternmost and the second largest (after Yakushima) of the Ōsumi Islands. It is located approximately 43 kilometres (23 nmi) south of the southern tip of Ōsumi 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.

Nakatane town

Town area of Nakatane (中種子町), Kagoshima, Japan


Strange rocks near Mt. Iwasaki


Ōsumi islands


Chikura Caverns


Cape Kadokura


Tanegashima has a long history of 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 embryo state of Japan began to make contact with Tanegashima. According to the Nihonshoki, the imperial court hosted a banquet for the islanders of Tanegashima in 677. In 679, the court sent a mission to the island who returned in 681. Other missions to the island mentioned in the book were in 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

A "Tanegashima" gun

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 the first Portuguese ship.[5]

In his memoirs published in 1614, Portuguese adventurer turned author, Fernão Mendes Pinto placed himself in the first landing party, although this claim has since been roundly discredited and in fact contradicts his claims to have been simultaneously in Burma at the time. The two Portuguese traders, António Mota and Francisco Zeimoto, should actually be credited as the first Europeans to introduce firearms. 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 Japanese goods.

During the Muromachi period, Tanegashima functioned as a relay station for 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 with the Honnō-ji Temple of Kyoto. These account for the rapid spread of firearms from Tanegashima to central Japan.[6]

200 escudos 1543-1993 Tanegashima

Portuguese escudo commemorating the Portuguese arrival at Tanegashima

Hokusai 1817 First Guns in Japan

First Westerners in Japan in 1542, by Hokusai (1817 woodblock painting)

Knife industry

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 Hōchō" (Tanegashima knives), used by chefs, and "Tane-basami" (Tanegashima scissors), preferred by many for the art of Bonsai. Nevertheless the local population has fallen from over fifty thousand in 1970 to just twenty-eight thousand today, in spite of tourism and space industries, putting traditional crafts at risk.


Nishinoomote City on Tanegashima

Tanegashima Godochosya

Tanegashima government building


Nishinoomote Minato Ward from "New Satsuma" (mid December 2012)

Tanegashima Space Center

The Tanegashima Space Center is Japan's largest space development center. It is run by JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and is located at the southeastern end of Tanegashima. It was established in 1969 when the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) was formed. Activities include assembly, testing, launching and tracking satellites, as well as rocket engine firing tests. Activity includes orbital launches of the H-IIA rockets from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex.

The Space Science and Technology Museum is near the TSC. It offers an intricate view of rocket history and technology in Japan. Though most of the displays are in Japanese, there are English tour pamphlets available.

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission (12812960063)

Full view of the Yoshinobu Launch Complex during roll out of the H-IIA rocket in February 2014

Osaki Range

Overlooking the Osaki Range, surrounded by green mountains and the sea of coral reefs.


Space Science and Technology Museum


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

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission (12858254354)

A Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (HMI) H-IIA rocket at TSC


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.

Sporting events

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

Notable people


  1. ^ "Hirota". archaeology.jp. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-09-30.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  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


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

External links


The bajō-zutsu (馬上筒) was a tanegashima (Japanese matchlock) in the form of a pistol. Bajō-zutsu were used by mounted samurai in feudal Japan.

Firearms of Japan

Firearms of Japan

were introduced in the 13th century by the Chinese, but saw little use. Portuguese firearms were introduced in 1543, and intense development followed, with strong local manufacture during the period of conflicts of the late 16th century.

Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite

The Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSat), also known as Ibuki (Japanese: いぶき, Hepburn: Ibuki, meaning "breath"), is an Earth observation satellite and the world's first satellite dedicated to greenhouse-gas-monitoring. It measures the densities of carbon dioxide and methane from 56,000 locations on the Earth's atmosphere. The GOSAT was developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and launched on 23 January 2009, from the Tanegashima Space Center. Japan's Ministry of the Environment, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) use the data to track gases causing the greenhouse effect, and share the data with NASA and other international scientific organizations.


H-IIB (H2B) is an expendable launch system used to launch H-II Transfer Vehicles (HTV, or Kounotori) towards the International Space Station. H-IIB rockets are liquid-fuelled with solid-fuel strap-on boosters and are launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Mitsubishi and JAXA have been primarily responsible for design, manufacture, and operation of H-IIB. H-IIB made its first flight in 2009, and had made a total of seven flights through 2018.

H-IIB is able to carry a payload of up to 8,000 kilograms (18,000 lb) to GTO, compared with the payload of 4,000-6,000 kg for the H-IIA, a predecessor design. Its performance to LEO is sufficient for the 16,500-kilogram (36,400 lb) HTV. The first H-IIB was launched in September 2009.

H3 (rocket)

The H3 Launch Vehicle is an expendable launch system in development in Japan. H3 rockets are liquid-propellant rockets with strap-on solid rocket boosters and are planned to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Mitsubishi and the JAXA have been responsible for the design, manufacture, and operation of the H3.

As of July 2015, it was planned that the minimum configuration is to carry a payload of up to 4 tonnes into sun-synchronous orbit for about 5 billion yen, and the maximum configuration is to carry more than 6.5 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit.The first H3 without solid-rocket boosters is planned to launch in fiscal year 2020, and with boosters in FY2021.

Himawari (satellite)

The Himawari (ひまわり, “sunflower”) geostationary satellites, operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), support weather forecasting, tropical cyclone tracking, and meteorology research. Most meteorological agencies in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand use the satellites for their own weather monitoring and forecasting operations.

Originally also named Geostationary Meteorological Satellites (GMS), since the launch of GMS-1 (Himawari 1) in 1977, there have been three generations, including GMS, MTSAT, and Himawari 8/9. Himawari 8/9 satellites are currently available for operational use.

The Himawari satellite was able to capture the Tianjin explosions in 2015."Tianjin explosions visible from space". The Guardian. 2015-08-13. Retrieved 2019-03-28.

Kounotori 4

Kounotori 4, also known as HTV-4, was the fourth flight of the H-II Transfer Vehicle, an unmanned cargo spacecraft launched in August 2013 to resupply the International Space Station. It launched from Tanegashima Space Center aboard H-IIB rocket on August 3, 2013 and connected to ISS by August 9, 2013; it carried 5.4 tons of cargo. Kounotori 4 undocked on September 4, 2013 and was destroyed by reentry on 7 September 2013.

Kumage Subprefecture

Kumage Subprefecture (熊毛支庁, Kumage-shichō) is a subprefecture of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The subprefectural office is located in Nishinoomote.

It includes the following cities and towns on the Ōsumi Islands:

Kumage Subprefecture

Nishinoomote (city on Tanegashima and Mageshima)

Nakatane (town on Tanegashima)

Minamitane (town on Tanegashima)

Yakushima Office

Yakushima (town on Yakushima and Kuchinoerabujima)


Magnetic Bearing Flywheel Experimental System (MABES), also known as Jindai (じんだい) is a National Space Development Agency of Japan(NASDA) satellite mission. It conducted experiments on the levitation of the magnetic bearing flywheel in a zero-G environment, and tested the function of the launch lock mechanism.On 12 August 1986, Jindai was launched from Tanegashima Space Center aboard the maiden flight of H-I rocket, along with Ajisai and Fuji.

Jindai is attached to the second stage of the H-1 rocket, and as of 2013, still remains in low Earth orbit.

MOS-1 (satellite)

Marine Observation Satellite 1 (MOS-1), also known as Momo-1, was Japan's first Earth observation satellite. It was launched on 19 February 1987 on a N-II rocket from Tanegashima Space Center and was operated by the National Space Development Agency of Japan.

It has three instruments: "Multi-Spectral Electronic Self-Scanning Radiometer (MESSR)" which offers 50m resolution in two visible and two infra-red spectral bands over two 100 km swathes; "Visible and Thermal Infrared Radiometer (VTIR)" which has a much lower resolution in one visible and three IR bands over a 1500 km swathe; "Micro Scanning Radiometer (MSR)" which measures microwave emission in the 23 GHz and 31 GHz bands.

Its NORAD ID is 17527; it is in a polar orbit at roughly 900 km altitude, but has not been active since November 1995.


The matchlock was the first mechanism invented to facilitate the firing of a hand-held firearm. Before this, firearms (like the hand cannon) had to be fired by applying a lit match (or equivalent) to the priming powder in the flash pan by hand; this had to be done carefully, taking most of the soldier's concentration at the moment of firing, or in some cases required a second soldier to fire the weapon while the first held the weapon steady. Adding a matchlock made the firing action simple and reliable by a single soldier, allowing him to keep both hands steadying the gun and eyes on the target while firing.

Minamitane, Kagoshima

Minamitane (南種子町, Minamitane-chō) is a town located on Tanegashima, in Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As of June 2013, the town has an estimated population of 5,925 and a population density of 53.8 persons per km². The total area is 110.40 km².

The headquarters of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are located at the Tanegashima Space Center in Minamitane.

New Tanegashima Airport

New Tanegashima Airport (新種子島空港, Shin Tanegashima Kūkō) (IATA: TNE, ICAO: RJFG), also known as Tanegashima Airport, is located in Nakatane, on Tanegashima, one of the Ōsumi Islands in southern Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

The original Tanegashima Airport was opened on July 27, 1962 at a site approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) southeast of the present airport. Although its runway was extended from 1,000 m (3,300 ft) to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) in 1973, it was not suitable to handle jet aircraft, and was closed on March 16, 2006, the day that the New Tanegashima Airport, with a 2,000 m (6,600 ft) runway was opened.

Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō), also known as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō, lit. "Southwest Islands") or the Ryukyu Arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko), are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the westernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa Island.

The climate of the islands ranges from humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af) in the south. Precipitation is very high and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons. Except the outlying Daitō Islands, the island chain has two major geologic boundaries, the Tokara Strait (between the Tokara and Amami Islands) and the Kerama Gap (between the Okinawa and Miyako Islands). The islands beyond the Tokara Strait are characterized by their coral reefs.

The Ōsumi and Tokara Islands, the northernmost of the islands, fall under the cultural sphere of the Kyushu region of Japan; the people are ethnically Japanese and speak a variation of the Kagoshima dialect of Japanese. The Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands have a native population collectively called the Ryukyuan people, named for the former Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled them. The varied Ryukyuan languages are traditionally spoken on these islands, and the major islands have their own distinct languages. In modern times, the Japanese language is the primary language of the islands, with the Okinawan Japanese dialect prevalently spoken. The outlying Daitō Islands were uninhabited until the Meiji period, when their development was started mainly by people from the Izu Islands south of Tokyo, with the people there speaking the Hachijō language.

Administratively, the islands are divided into Kagoshima Prefecture (specifically the islands administered by Kagoshima District, Kumage Subprefecture/District, and Ōshima Subprefecture/District) in the north and Okinawa Prefecture in the south, with the divide between the Amami and Okinawa Islands, with the Daitō Islands part of Okinawa Prefecture. The northern (Kagoshima) islands are collectively called the Satsunan Islands, while the southern part of the chain (Okinawa Prefecture) are called the Ryukyu Islands in Chinese.

Tanegashima (gun)

Tanegashima (種子島), most often called in Japanese and sometimes in English hinawajū (火縄銃, "matchlock gun"), was a type of matchlock configured arquebus firearm introduced to Japan through the Portuguese in 1543. Tanegashima were used by the samurai class and their foot soldiers (ashigaru) and within a few years the introduction of the tanegashima in battle changed the way war was fought in Japan forever.

Tanegashima Space Center

The Tanegashima Space Center (種子島宇宙センター, Tanegashima Uchū Sentā) (TNSC) is the largest rocket-launch complex in Japan with a total area of about 9.7 square kilometers. It is located on the south east coast of Tanegashima, an island approximately 40 km south of Kyushu. It was established in 1969 when the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) was formed, and is now run by JAXA.

The activities that take place at TNSC include assembly, testing, launching, and tracking satellites, as well as rocket engine firing tests.

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) was a joint space mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) designed to monitor and study tropical rainfall. The term refers to both the mission itself and the satellite that the mission used to collect data. TRMM was part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a long-term, coordinated research effort to study the Earth as a global system. The satellite was launched on November 27, 1997 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, Japan. TRMM operated for 17 years, including several mission extensions, before being decommissioned in April 2015. TRMM re-entered Earth's atmosphere on June 16, 2015.

Yoshinobu Launch Complex

The Yoshinobu Launch Complex, also known as Launch Area Y, Area Y or LA-Y, is a launch complex at the Tanegashima Space Centre, located on Tanegashima, the Japanese island located 115 km south of Kyūshū. The complex is used for the H-II and H-IIA carrier rockets. The complex is also used by the H-IIB, which was first launched on 10 September 2009. That flight launched the HTV-1 spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station.It is the most Northern launch complex at Tanegashima, and along with the now inactive Osaki Launch Complex, it is part of the Osaki Range, used for orbital launches. The Yoshinobu complex consists of two launch pads, however launches have only been conducted from pad 1, which was built around 1993 for the H-II programme. The second pad was completed around 2000, shortly after the H-II was retired in favour of the H-IIA, but is yet to be used for a launch. The complex also contains a test stand for firing the LE-7 engines used in the first stage of the H-II and its derivatives. Prior to launch, rockets are processed vertically in the complex's vehicle assembly building. The rocket is rolled out to the launch pad on a mobile launch platform about twelve hours before it is scheduled to launch. It takes around thirty minutes to transport the rocket from the assembly building to Pad 1.

Ōsumi Islands

The Ōsumi Islands (大隅諸島, Ōsumi-shotō) is an archipelago in the Nansei Islands, and are the northernmost group of the Satsunan Islands, which is in turn part of the Ryukyu Archipelago. The chain extends from the southern tip of Kyushu to Yakushima. Administratively, the group belongs within Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

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 76
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]
Ōsumi Islands


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