Tanegashima Geography

Tanegashima (種子島) is one of the Ōsumi Islands belonging to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The island, 444.99 km² in area, is the second largest of the Ōsumi Islands, and has a population of 33,000 people. Access to the island is by ferry, or by air to New Tanegashima Airport. Administratively, the island is divided into the city, Nishinoomote, and the two towns, Nakatane and Minamitane. The towns belong to the Kumage District.

Picture - Map showing the location of Tanegashima in relation to the main island of Kyushu.

Tanegashima is the easternmost and the second largest (after Yakushima) of the Osumi Islands. It is located approximately 43 kilometers (23 nmi) south of the southern tip of Osumi Peninsula in southern Kyushu, or 115 kilometers (62 nmi) south of Kagoshima. The Vincennes Strait (Yakushima Kaikyō) separates it from Yakushima.

The island is of volcanic origin; however, unlike neighboring Yakushima, it presents a level appearance, with its highest elevation at only 282 meters (925 ft) above sea level. The island has a length of 57 kilometers (31 nmi) and a width ranging from 5 kilometers (2.7 nmi) to 10 kilometers (5.4 nmi). The entire coastline measures approximately 186 km (115.6 mi) and is composed of a mixture of rock beaches and beautiful mixed grain sand beaches. The climate is subtropical.

The island coordinates are 30°34′26″N 130°58′52″E.
Varied Topography

Tanegashima does not compare to neighboring Yakushima in terms of varied topography, well depending on your point of view. Tanegashima technically has no mountains, although the topography does rise to an elevation of about 282 meters (925 ft) in Nishinoomore to the north.

Picture - View of the coastline and farmlands from the top of Mt. Tennyogakura.

Mt. Tennyogakura, 天女ケ倉, is one of the highest points on the island at only about 238 meters high. At this spot, the view of the coastline and adjacent farms is amazing. There is also a small platform where you can observe the night sky if you are so inclined. Be sure to put something on any of your lightweight belongings, as the wind can get pretty strong up here.

Most of the land use on the island is farming although a decent amount is open space covered with natural vegetation typical of a subtropical climate. Along with the usual scrub type bushes, there is a wide variety of tall, thin trees with canopies covered with leaves and thick vines. There is also a fairly diverse mix of palm trees, banana trees, and more flowers than you can possibly imagine, especially during Spring.
Rock Formations

Tanegashima has some of the most beautiful rock formations in Japan. Many outcrops extend into the sea and are topped with trees and bushes.

Picture - An entrance to the famous Chikura Caves.

Many of these formations have been carved out over millions of years by the forces of wind, waves, and rain, resulting in fascinating caves. The most famous of these caves, known as Chikura Caves, can be found at Hamada beach in Minamitane town. The main area of the cave is so large it is said that it can accommodate 1000 people at the same time.

The outcrops are made up of mostly sandstone and shale and be incredibly beautiful on a bright sunny day, especially if viewed from a good angle. Some of the sedimentary deposits contain marine fossils of various ages. Many other fossils, and a plethora of different seashells, can be found almost anywhere along the Tanegashima coastline.
Beautiful Beaches

Tanegashima boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Japan. The island beaches come in a couple of varieties....the rock beaches and the sand beaches.

Picture - A beautiful sunset behind Yakushima from a rock beach on the west coast of the island.

The rock beaches are, as the name implies, loaded with rocks of various sizes. These beaches are also the collecting points of tons of trash which find their way from the farms, into the rivers, and ultimately to the sea, only to get washed up on any of the numerous rock beaches, which dot the entire coastline. Be aware when walking on these beaches since you can easily get cut on the glass and garbage lining the beaches. If you plan to go beach hiking, wear hiking boots as opposed to beach sandals. Not only will you be protecting your feet from being cut but the boots provide considerably more stability for traversing the rough and uneven terrain of these beaches. The rock beaches on the west side of the island are great places to catch the sun setting behind Yakushima, Bring your date, a couple of glasses, a bottle....or two....of your favorite cabernet, and you're all set to watch some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see.

The sand beaches are an entirely different story. These beaches can also be a storehouse for trash but a really high tide or a typhoon can completely wash away all garbage, giving these beaches a completely different look, in a matter of days or even hours. These beaches are great for walking, hiking, or simply laying out in the sun. Most of the beaches have white sand composed of mostly silica, along with the presence of a few other minerals. The beaches on the west side of the island are made of sand which is almost completely black compliments of minerals with an iron composition. These iron ore pieces are a lot of fun for the kids so be sure to bring a small collection container and a magnet.
Additional Information