Category: Term of the day
Tanegashima was a type of matchlock or arquebus firearm introduced to Japan through the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Tanegashima were used by the samurai class and their foot soldiers (ashigaru) and within a few years the introduction of the tanegashima in battle changed the way war was fought in Japan forever.
The name "tanegashima" came from the Japanese island (Tanegashima) where a Chinese junk with Portuguese adventurers on board was driven to anchor by a storm in 1543. The lord of the Japanese island, Tanegashima Tokitaka (1528–1579), purchased two matchlock rifles from the Portuguese and put a swordsmith to work copying the matchlock barrel and firing mechanism. The smith (Yaita) did not have much of a problem with most of the gun but "drilling the barrel helically so that the screw (bisen bolt) could be tightly inserted" was a major problem as this "technique did apparently not exist in Japan until this time." The Portuguese fixed their ship and left the island and only in the next year when a Portuguese blacksmith was brought back to Japan was the problem solved.
Within ten years of its introduction, an upwards of 300,000 tanegashima firearms were reported to have been manufactured.