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Tanegashima is an island in Kagoshima prefecture located just south of Kyushu and famous as the site of the first introduction of European-style firearms into Japan in 1543.


Tanegashima first appears in Japanese records in the 7th century. According to some sources, Tanegashima, the Amami Islands, Tokunoshima, Yakushima first began sending tribute to the Yamato state in 616.[1] The island was officially added into the territory of Ôsumi province in 624.[2] Elites on the islands are recorded as receiving stipends from the court as early as 683.[2]

In the medieval period, Tanegashima served as an entrepot (waypoint) for trade traveling between the Ryûkyû Islands and area in Japan's Inland Sea. The Tanegashima clan, retainers of the Shimazu who claimed descent from Taira no Kiyomori, ruled as lords of Tanegashima and neighboring islands throughout the medieval and early modern periods.

According to most accounts, two or three Portuguese arrived at Tanegashima in 1543 aboard a Chinese junk, and before long Tanegashima Tokitaka, lord of the island, had his retainers reproducing European-style arquebuses.[3]

Ogura Tomochika served as mayor of Tanegashima for a brief time, from 1873 until sometime before 1877.[4]


  1. Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 51.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gallery labels, Amami Tatsugô Shima Museum.[1]
  3. Gary Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900, A&C Black (2003), 2.
  4. Plaques on-site at Ogura's grave at Nanshû Cemetery, Kagoshima.[2]