Much of the year the island of Tanegashima, located in a remote corner of southeastern Japan, is a sleepy little place. Just as they have done for centuries, ironmongers forge the tools and implements of daily life. Farmers till the soil and cultivate red rice and sweet potatoes. Fishermen throw their nets into the sea and haul in the catch of the day. Loggerhead sea turtles return here from thousands of miles away to lay their eggs.
A few times each year the island is the recipient of great fuss and attention. All summer long, surfers from all over Japan make their way to Tanegashima to catch the great waves, while the white sands of the beaches fill up with sun worshippers. In August, the Tanegashima Gun Festival is a sight to behold, as local inhabitants turn back the clock to the 17th century and recreate the form and fashion of matchlock rifle battalions. As Japan’s most significant spaceport, rocket launches are always popular events. And they have served to inspire the creation of another annual celebration, the Tanegashima Space Art Festival.