Welcome to Kagoshima. > History of Kagoshima

Update : January 28, 2019

Main content starts here.

History of Kagoshima

The most ancient historical site in Kagoshima Prefecture is the Tachikiri site on Tanegashima Island, where traces of livelihood and pitfall traps that date back to the Paleolithic Age (more than 30,000 years ago) have been discovered.

Traces of livelihood dating back to the Jomon Period can also be seen all around Kagoshima. Many pit dwellings from 9,500 years ago were discovered at Uenohara site in Kirishima City in 1997, confirming the fact that human beings had been residing in village settlements in Kagoshima since those times.

Ruins of the Yayoi Culture, which had been a largely agrarian culture dependent on rice crops, can be found everywhere in Japan. However, Kagoshima Prefecture was known for having both dry field crops and rice crops due in part to the abundance of Shirasu (volcanic ejecta) that covered the land throughout the prefecture.

Japan was unified by the Yamato Imperial Court from the second half of the third century to the beginning of the fourth century, and the southern part of Kyushu was under the influence of the Yamato Imperial Court by the second half of the fourth century.

During the 8th century, the Satsuma and Osumi local governments were established and incorporated into the Ritsuryo Government (a law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese legalism).



At the end of twelfth century, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo established a samurai government, and they ruled Japan instead of the nobles. The Shimadzu family extended its influence little by little thereafter, and they came to rule almost the same area as present day Kagoshima by the second half of the sixteenth century.

Kagoshima is the southern gateway to Japan, therefore trade with China, Korea, the Ryukyu Islands and the Asia-Pacific region flourished since ancient times, and western culture was introduced during the sixteenth century.

The first gun was brought into Japan when the Portuguese who rode on a Chinese ship drifted ashore on Tanegashima Island about 1543. In 1549, Saint Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, came to Kagoshima and introduced Christianity to Japan.


Kagoshima passionately adopted western cultures under the leadership of the lord of Satsuma Clan when Japan's isolationist system collapsed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Building reverberatory furnaces and machine factories of every kind, and sending young men to the United Kingdom for studies are some examples.

In this way, Kagoshima became powerful and had a strong influence over Japan, eventually becoming the central force behind the overthrow of old government and establishment of a new one.

The new Meiji Government changed the backward society, and pressed on making a modern unified nation.  Capable people from Kagoshima such like Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi held roles of great responsibility in this government.

Kagoshima has produced many talented people, such as politicians including Prime Ministers Kuroda Kiyotaka, Matsukata Masayoshi, and Yamamoto Gonbei, military men like Togo Heihachiro, cultured men like Kuroda Seiki (a painter) and others.