Tanegashima Guns and Knives
Tanegashima Guns and Knives
The very first place in Japan that guns were introduced was Tanegashima. This is where European firearms were first brought into and so Tanegashima is most well known for this as well as a few other things. Until modern times, to the Japanese people firearms were known as “Tanegashima”.
It is said that the Portuguese brought the firearms to Tanegashima by their ship. A Portuguese adventurer named Fernao Mendes claimed in his memoir to be one of the first landing party in Tanegashima. Although there is some evidence against this since he also claims to have been in Burma around the same time, there seems to be evidence that he did in fact go to Tanegashima soon after.
Although guns were one of the things that Europeans came to Tanegashima to trade, they also brought soap, tobacco and other goods that were not known to Japanese people at that time.
Tanegashima was on of the main routes for the Chinese trade that connected Sakai to Ningbo so Tanegashima played a big role as a relay station during the Muromachi period. The Tanegashima clan and the Hosokawa clan cooperated together in the Chinese trade as the Hosokawa clan was one of the two clans that had control over the Chinese trade. The Hosokawa clan also had a strong connection to the Honno-ji Temple in Kyoto and so because of this and their control over the Chinese trade the firearms quickly spread across central Japan.
Another thing that Tanegashima is most famous for are their sharp edge tools. Especially knives and scissors. These are the traditional handicrafts of Japan that Tanegashima is most well known for. The traditional techniques for forging and sharpening iron tools have been kept alive by the Craftsmen in Tanegashima. These craftsmen have passed down these techniques from generation to generation. In 1185, craftsmen and chefs from Kyoto were brought to Tanegashima by the Taira clan when they were exiled to Tanegashima from Kyoto by the Minamoto no Yoritomo. And so it is said that the technique has been kept alive since 1185.
Because the Taira clan were exiled from Kyoto, many of the people now still speak with a Kyoto accent rather than a Kyushu or Kagoshima accent. So although Tanegashima is close to Kagoshima it is said that more people speak with a Kyoto accent. The way that the craftsmen forge and sharpen the tools here is very unique in Japan and also in the world. Because it is so unique the tools are actually called Tanegashima Hocho which means Tanegashima knives and the scissors are called Tane basami as these specific types of knives and scissors are only made in Tanegashima. Many of the scissors made in Tanegashima are used for the art of Bonsai as well so they are extremely popular.