Tanegashima (Japanese: 種子島) is an island lying to the south of Kyūshū, south Japan, and is part of the Kagoshima Prefecture. The island is the second largest of the Osumi Islands.

It is a long low stretch of land, carefully cultivated, 57.5 kilometers from north to south, and 5-12 kilometers from east to west.On the island, there are a city, Nishinoomote, and two towns, Nakatane and Minamitane. The towns belong to Kumage District.

This island is celebrated as the place where Mendes Pinto landed when he found his way to Japan in 1543. A Ryukyuan trading post had been established there several decades earlier, and all traffic from the Ryukyus to Kagoshima on Kyūshū, 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 [Kerr, George H. "Okinawa: The History of an Island People". revised ed. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2000. p141,144.] . Until modern times firearms were colloquially known in Japan as "Tanega-shima," due to the belief that they were introduced by Pinto. In fact, Pinto was probably not present at the first Portuguese contact with the Japanese, although he did visit Tanegashima soon after and legend has it that he married a local woman, who bore a son.

The Europeans had arrived to trade, not only guns, but also soap, tobacco and other goods unknown in medieval Japan, for the Japanese goods.

The headquarters of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Tanegashima Space Center spaceport is located at the southeastern end of the island.

New Tanegashima Airport serves the country

Edge tools (knives and scissors) of Tanegashima

Edge tools (knives and scissors) made in Tanegashima are famous as traditional handicrafts in Japan. The crafts-men in Tanegashima have kept traditional technique for forging and sharpening iron tools alive. Tanegashima is famous for being the center of sand iron production. The technique has been around since roughly 1185 when the Taira clan were marooned from Kyoto by Minamoto no Yoritomo, taking with them various crafts-men and chefs from Kyoto. The people of the island talk with a Kyoto accent even now, rather than a Kyushu or Kagoshima accent, despite its proximity to Kyushu. These crafts-men were the original users of the distinct techniques used for forging and sharpening.

The technique is both rare and important. It is famous for products such as the "Tanegashima Hocho" (Tanegashima knives), used by many chefs in Kyoto and Kansai, and the "Tane-basami"(Tanegashima scissors), preferred by many for the art of Bonsai.

The edge tools are all hand-made and famous as the sharpest and highest quality implements in modern Japan.

Moreover, since 1543, when firearms were introduced by Pinto, they have expanded their original techniques to create high quality firearms with their iron-forging skills.Now Tanegashima Space Center is located on the island.Leading-edge technology has been a key element of Tanegashima island throughout the ages.

External links

* http://spaceboy.nasda.go.jp/gallery/gallery-e/t_tour_e.html
* http://web-japan.org/atlas/technology/tec09.html
* http://minamitane.wordpress.com



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