A Trip to a Little Known Island: Tanegashima of Kagoshima

tanegashima Kyushu
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.

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Most travelers who have done some research about the best nature spots to visit in Japan have come across Yakushima. While this beautiful green island is a fantastic destination for anyone who wants to forest bathe and see rare flora and fauna, Yakushima gets a fair bit of tourist traffic from both local and international tourists despite its small size. If you truly want to get off the beaten path and enjoy natural beauty with a few other interesting destinations added to the mix, Tanegashima is a destination to consider. Read more on how to get to Tanegashima and what are the must-dos and must-sees at this small island south of Kyushu that is very much worth a visit for intrepid travelers to Japan!

How To Get To Tanegashima

When you look at the map, it is clear that Tanegashima is located in a rather remote area of Japan not close to Tokyo or Osaka. If you enter Japan in Tokyo or Osaka, you should first travel to Kyushu. If you have plenty of time, you should definitely stop by some of the highlights of this southern island of Japan; the yatai food stalls in Fukuoka, the green tea fields of Yame, the healing hot springs of Beppu, the volcanic landscapes of Mt Aso, and the historical treasures of Kagoshima, there is much to see in Kyushu.

When it is time to go to Tanegashima, the best way is to go to Kagoshima in the south and take a ferry from there. If you have a car, you can bring your car with you on the ferry. You can also rent a car after you arrive on the island. The regular ferry takes less than 2 hours and costs around 9300 JPY per person, and the car ferry takes 3 hours and 40 minutes and costs 3900 JPY per person plus 13,000 JPY or more per vehicle. You can also fly to Tanegashima, this costs around 20,000 JPY for a one-way ticket, so this is not usually the recommended way to get there.

Best Beaches on Tanegashima

One of the main reasons to go to Tanegashima would be to enjoy its peaceful sandy beaches and an azure ocean. The Nagahama Coast (長浜海岸) on the western side of Tanegashima has plenty of beaches, many of them quiet and pristine, from where you can swim and snorkel. If you are lucky, you may even meet some local Loggerhead sea turtles! 

Urada Kaisuiyokujo Beach (浦田海水浴場)

Urada Kaisuiyokujo Beach in the northern tip of the island is a great beach to visit for a relaxing day. The sea is often calm with high water clarity and the sand is bright white. There are showers and toilets for visitors’ convenience, and during the high season there are a few concession stands.

Kumano Kaisuiyokujo Beach (熊野海水浴場)

Kumano Kaisuiyokujo Beach on the eastern coast of the island has a grassy area for camping right next to the long sandy beach. This beach also has toilets and showers for a comfortable day at the ocean side. If you go a bit more down south, you will find the Chikura Grotto (千座の岩屋) area which has a network of caves and caverns that are fun to explore during the low tide. If you go on a kayaking tour, you can go snorkeling at the coral reefs that are located at around 500 meters into the sea.

Tanegashima Space Center

Among astronomy aficionados, Tanegashima is well-known for its JAXA (Japan’s equivalent of NASA) Space Center which is the largest rocket-launching facility in Japan and also one of the most beautiful rocket launch areas in the world surrounded by the transparent blue sea. From assembly of rockets to maintenance and the eventual launch-offs, it all happens in this space aviation complex. They organize 3 free bus tours that you need to make a reservation for in advance. The tour will take you on a trip around the launch complex, rocket garage, and control center, so anyone with even a remote interest in space aviation will have a field day on this tour. You can also visit the free Space Development Museum for a fun interactive exhibition about space and space vehicles. If you are lucky enough to be here on the day of a rocket launch, you can witness it from a safe distance of at least 3 kilometers away.


Historical Sites and Museums on Tanegashima

But there is more to do on Tanegashima besides enjoying ocean-side activities and learning about space. Here is a list of interesting historical attractions and museums:

  • Teppokan gun museum: as the first place in Japan where guns were imported by the Portuguese, this small museum is a good place to lean more about the island’s history.
  • Buy artisanal products at the source: Tanegashima is a proud producer of pottery and shochu amongst other artisanal products. Buy it from the source at, for example, 陶染工房 美ほう庵 (pottery) and 上妻酒造株式会社 (shochu distillery).
  • Furuichi family Residence (古市家住宅): a humble abode, this traditional house is a designated important cultural property as the last wooden house on the island.
  • Hirota Site Museum: this museum is located on the spot where human remains and artifacts from the Yayoi period will find. There are many English explanations, so this is a good place to visit to learn more about Japan’s ancient history.
  • Akaogijo Culture Traditional Museum Gesso Tei: this is a lovely little tea house where you can enjoy a cup of green tea with a view of a Japanese garden. It is located near the gun museum, so you can combine a visit.

Nature Spots to Visit in Tanegashima

If you want to enjoy natural beauty on Tanegashima besides the beaches, the following spots are fine spots for photography and simply basking in their magnificence: 

  • Cape Kadokura: located at the southern tip of Tanegashima, this cliffside overlook point has wonderful views over the ocean and it was also the first landing place of the Portuguese in the 16th century.
  • Arch of the Banyan tree (アコウのアーチ): the tropical Banyan tree with its long roots that can take water from humid air is a symbol of Japan’s southernmost islands. The Arch of the Banyan tree is a spot on the eastern coast where the tree is completely arched over the road, forming a tunnel.
  • Obuchi Mebuchi Taki Falls (男淵•女淵の滝): granted, it is not a very large waterfall, but it is a refreshing place to visit especially when the weather is hot.
  • Tanegashima Mangrove Park: Tanegashima has the northernmost mangrove forests of Japan, and you can fully enjoy them in this freely accessible park. They made a convenient wooden walkway, and you can also opt for a kayaking tour if you truly want to be amongst the trees.
  • Matate no Iwaya Cave (馬立の岩屋): this is a good spot for rummaging around the beach and observe the interesting layered geology of the cave area, but if you are an experienced snorkeler with the right equipment and come on a day without many waves, this is one of the best hidden spots to meet the area’s beautiful corals and fish.
Chikura Grotto Tanegashima

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