Tanegashima is an isolated island off the southeast coast of Kyushu, Japan. It’s also the nation’s main spaceport, where rockets are assembled and launched into space. They carry satellites aloft and place them into orbit, and send pods with supplies up to the International Space Station. The island holds a special place in the hearts of the Japanese as a land of pristine beauty, a natural habitat for loggerhead sea turtles, and an agriculture-based corner of the country that still does things the ways of old.
Tanegashima is also known as an isle that’s inhabited by people with a forward-looking approach to technology and progress. It has the distinction of being the place where the first firearms were introduced into Japan. On a promontory near the site of Nishimura village, a weathered stone marks the spot where, on August 25, 1543, two Portuguese merchants, after being blown off course by a typhoon, disembarked from a Chinese junk and stepped into history.