Tanegashima is an island in Japan in Kagoshima prefecture situated 40 km south of Kyushu, at the western end of the Ōsumi Islands. The land size is about 440 km2, but the highest point is only 282 meters so the island looks quite flat from the outside. Yakushima Island next to Tanegashima has a 1,936 meter-high peak and thus looks quite different. The population of the island is about 29,000.
Tanegashima Space Center
The headquarter of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Tanegashima Space Center is on this island. It was built in 1969 and it is one of the most important rocket launching sites in the country. It is said to be the most beautiful space center in the world because the launching site is a cape surrounded by an ocean full of coral.
JAXA chose this place because of the following reasons. Firstly, it must be a safe location for the land, ocean, and sky in Japan especially to the south-west, the direction in which they launch rockets.
Secondly, it is best to be close to the equator because satellites use the power of earth rotation. Tanegashima is not the southernmost place in Japan. But because the more southern Okinawa Islands were occupied by the USA until 1973 they chose Tanegashima.
Introduction of Guns to Japan
Tanegashima has a unique history. It was the place of the first contact with a western country. In 1543, a Portuguese ship drifted down to the island. They demonstrated how to fire matchlock guns to feudal lord Tanegashima Tokitaka. In Japan, there were no firearms at that time. Samurai used only swords and bows. Tanegashima decided to buy two guns from them. Then he ordered his vassals to learn how to make gun powder and let the blacksmiths make guns.
Then caster Tachibanaya Matasaburo came to the island from Sakai in Osaka. This was the busiest merchant town in Japan at that time. He learned how to make guns in one or two years and came back to Sakai. He made guns in Sakai and sold them to samurai clans. This is how guns spread in Japan.
It is quite interesting that the place of the first contact with Western countries is now the point of contact with outer space.
There are many beautiful beaches on the island. You can enjoy a variety of marine sports, especially surfing. Some people have migrated from mainland Honshu to enjoy surfing here. You can also enjoy SUP surf, kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling.
If you are interested in nature, you can see the mangrove jungle here.
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Tanegashima Access Information
There are airplanes (about 30 minutes), ferries (about 3.5 hours), and speed boats (about 1.5 hours) from Kagoshima City in Kyushu to Tanegashima.