Tanegashima is a small island with a population of around 33,000, located about 100 kilometers south to Kagoshima prefecture. To get to the island, you can fly for half an hour from Kagoshima Airport, or take the jet ferry called “Toppi” from Kagoshima port. The island’s geography is a kind of a horizontal plate with its highest elevation at only 282 meters (925 feet) above sea level. It is so compact that you can make a round trip within three hours by driving along the coast.
Inside Toppi Ferry
The charm of Tanegashima is in its landscape with absolute natural beauty. When I visited there, I was more amazed than I had expected by the intact nature such as pristine beaches, peaceful neighborhoods and fresh seafood. Moreover, it has a rich culture and history which attracts lots of travellers nationwide. Let me convince you to visit the beautiful island for the following reasons!
History: The Introduction of Firearms into Japan
Hearing Tanegashima for Japanese students reminds of a historic milestone, teppo denrai, the introduction of firearms. In 1542, a Chinese ship with Portuguese adventurers arrived in Tanegashima. After landing, they showed guns and demonstrated how to use them. The Tanegashima clan and some other regional clans learnt about firearms from them, the technique of producing firearms spread from Tanegashima to the central capital. This state-of-the-art weapon dramatically changed the battlefield in the Warring States Period.
Nature : Chikura no Iwaya Cave
Driving around the island itself is a great way to fall in love with nature. You feel just happy to watch the Pacific Ocean spreading in front of you. Now I’d like to show you one of the must-see beaches in Tanegashima.
Chikura and Iwaya literally means 1,000 people sitting and a rock cave, respectively. The cave has been around for a long period of time, being carved out by the rough tides of the Pacific Ocean. The inside of the cave is so spacious that as many as 1,000 people can sit in it, and it only appears at low tides. Looking outside from the inside, you can enjoy a majestic view framed by the rough rocks with the contrast of the blue ocean and dark rocks. Naturally, the beach is popular for its unique rock formations and crystal clear water. You can enjoy snorkeling because it is a preferred habitat of local marine flora and fauna.
Tanegashima Space Center
Kagoshima prefecture is the only prefecture which has two rocket launch pads in Japan. One is located in Kimotsuki, town of Osumi peninsula, and the other is in Tanegashima Island. In particular, Tanegashima space center is known for the being the most beautiful research facility in the world. It was established in 1969 when the National Space Development Agency of Japan was formed. Generally speaking, rocket launch pads are traditionally built in a spacious flat field, but Tanegashima space center was built in mountainous fields and the facilities are spotted in the green forests along the coast. It is definitely one of the most photogenic places in Japan. On-site facilities include the launch complex, a launch site and some assembly buildings.
Food: Fresh Seafood and Annoimo Sweet Potato
Needless to say, Tanegashima is blessed with fresh vegetables and seafood thanks to the surroundings and its mild climate. A wide variety of marine creatures inhabit in and around the coast of the island. We visited one of the local fish restaurants called “Julian”. A set meal of fresh seafood caught in the local fishery is recommended.
Finally, if you visit there in autumn, an indigenous sweet potato called annoimo is an absolute must. It is well known for its sweetness and orange color inside. The most recommended way of eating annoimo is just to bake it in the oven around at 220 degrees Celsius. It is sweet enough for your treat without adding sugar or honey. You may find annoimo in some local supermarkets in the Kyushu regions.