Item# OTANE002

Product Description

Tanegashima Island scissors, length: 18 cm (7") and 21 cm (8.2")

Tanegashima (Japanese: 種子島) is an island lying to the south of Kyushu, in southern Japan, and is part of Kagoshima Prefecture.

This island is celebrated as the site of the first known contact of Europe and the Japanese, in 1543. A Ryukyuan trading post had been established there several decades earlier, and all traffic from the Ryukyus to Kagoshima on Kyushu, 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.

A "Tanegashima" gun

Until modern times, firearms were colloquially known in Japan as "Tanega-shima", due to the belief that they were introduced by the Portuguese onboard that ship. In his memoirs published in 1614, Portuguese adventurer turned author, Fernão Mendes Pinto placed himself in that first landing party, although this claim has been roundly discredited and in fact contradicts with his claims to be simultaneously in Burma at the time. 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 the Japanese goods.

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 sand iron production. The technique has been around since about 1185 when the Taira clan were exiled here from their native 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 Kyushu or Kagoshima accent, despite its proximity to Kyushu. 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 Hocho" (Tanegashima knives), used by many chefs in Kyoto and Kansai, and "Tane-Basami" (Tanegashima scissors), preferred by many for the art of Bonsai. Since 1543, when firearms were introduced by Pinto, ironworking craftsmen on Tanegashima have expanded their original techniques to include the creation of high quality firearms.

Tanegashima Space Center