Matchlocks were perfected by the people of Tanegashima.
Although I was born and raised on Tanegashima, my knowledge of matchlocks was limited to the information in our history textbooks. After I joined the Preservation Society and started studying more, I sensed the inevitability of history with regard to the question of why guns were brought to Tanegashima.
Tanegashima has high quality iron sand, and iron working and blacksmithing were actively pursued here from olden times, and it appears that gunpowder was obtained from nearby Iwo Jima. I feel proud as a resident of Tanegashima that our ancestors were able to perfect techniques for domestic production in just one year after purchasing two sample matchlocks from the Portuguese.
The report of a matchlock is pretty thunderous.
The Tanegashima Matchlock Appreciation Association was established in 1971 and became active as the Preservation Society the following year. In the society, we, of course, work to preserve matchlocks, while also engaging in activities to create interest in Tanegashima matchlocks and the culture of guns. These activities include preserving and studying techniques and military skills for firing the weapons, participating in the Tanegashima Firearms Festival held in August of every year, and participating in exchange events with gun clubs throughout Japan.
The blast of a matchlock is more powerful than you would think. When we hold firing practice, the loud report echoes dramatically off the nearby buildings. Also, when we travel to other areas to hold demonstrations, the spectators react and yell with surprise. I often hear people say, "Wow, they really are powerful!" Using matchlocks as an introduction, I would like to attract more people to visit Tanegashima and let them know about the wonderful nature, culture, history, and food that can only be experienced on this island.
■ Favorite places on Tanegashima
I like the shallow near-shore waters that are a signature of Tanegashima.
In particular, Osaki Beach and the shores of Itajikibana, which are only about 10 minutes north of town by car, are my favorite spots.