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Tsushima (対馬, Tsushima) is an island of the Japanese Archipelagomarker situated in the middle of Korea Straitmarker at 34°25'N and 129°20'E. It is the largest island of Nagasaki Prefecturemarker. The city of Tsushima encompasses the entire island.


Tsushima Island is located west of the Kanmon Straitmarker at a latitude between Honshūmarker and Kyūshūmarker of the Japan's mainland. The Korea Straitmarker splits at the Tsushima Island Archipelago into two channels; the wider channel, also closer to the mainland of Japan, is the Tsushima Strait. Ōfunakoshi-Seto and Manzeki-Seto, the two canals built in 1671 and 1900 respectively, connect the deep indentation of Asō Bay to the east side of the island. The archipelago comprises thirteen smaller islets in addition to the main island.

Tsushima is the closest Japanese territory to the Korean peninsula, lying approximately 50 km from Busanmarker; on a clear day, the hills and mountains of the Korean peninsula are visible from the higher elevations on the two northern mountains. The nearest Japanese port Iki, situated entirely in the Tsushima Basin, is also 50 km away. Tsushima Island and Iki Islandmarker contain the Iki–Tsushima Quasi-National Park, designated as a nature preserve and protected from further development. Much of Tsushima, 89%, is covered by natural vegetation and mountains.

The Japanese government administers Tsushima Island as a single entity, although artificial waterways have separated it into two islands connected by the narrow isthmus outlined by the Aso Bay. The northern area is known as Kamino-shimamarker (上島), and the southern island as Shimono-shimamarker (下島). Both sub-islands have a pair of mountains: Shimo-no-shima has Mount Yatate (矢立山), 649 m (2,130 ft) high, and Ariake-yama (有明山), 558 m (1,831 ft) high. Kami-no-shima has Mi-take (御嶽), 487 m (1,598 ft). The two main sections of the island are now joined by a combination bridge and causeway. The island has a total area of 696.26 km2.

A harbor on Tsushima Island


Tsushima has a marine subtropical climate strongly influenced by the monsoon winds. The average temperature is 15.5°C, and the average yearly precipitation is 2,132.6 mm. The highest temperature ever recorded on the island is 36.0°C, in 1966, and the lowest –8.6°C, in 1895. Mostly throughout the year, Tsushima is 1 – 2°C cooler than the city of Nagasaki. The island's rainfall is generally larger than that of the main islands of Japan, which is attributed to the difference in their size. Because Tsushima is small and isolated, it is exposed on all sides to moist marine air, which releases precipitation as it ascends the island's steep slopes. Continental monsoon winds carry loess (yellow sand) from Chinamarker in the spring and cool the island in the winter. The rainy season begins and ends later than other areas in Nagasaki Prefecture, and Tsushima rarely suffers direct hits by typhoons.


According to a 2000 census, 23.9% of the local population is employed in primary industries, while 19.7% and 56.4% of the population are employed in secondary and tertiary industries, respectively. Of these economic activities, fishing amounts to 82.6% of the primary industry, with much of it dedicated to catching squid on the eastern coast of the island.

The number of employees in the primary industries has been decreasing, while employee growth in the secondary and tertiary industries has increased. Tourism, targeting mainly South Koreans, has recently made a great contribution to the islands' economy.

Tsushima Airportmarker serves the island.


Early history

Japanese mythology states that Tsushima was one of the eight original islands created by the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami. Archeological evidence suggests that Tsushima was already inhabited by settlers from the Japanese archipelagomarker and Korean peninsula from the Jōmon period to the Kofun period. According to the Sanguo Zhi, a Chinese historical text, a thousand families in Tsushima founded the Tsuikai kingdom (対海国). It was one of the about 30 that composed the Yamataikoku union countries. These families exerted control over Iki Islandmarker, and established trading links with Yayoi Japan. Since Tsushima had almost no land to cultivate, islanders earned their living by fishing and trading.

Beginning in the early 6th century, Tsushima was a province of Japan, known as Tsushima Province.

Under the Ritsuryo system, Tsushima became a province of Japan. This province was linked with Dazaifu, the political and economical center of Kyūshūmarker, as well as the central government of Japan. Due to its strategic location, Tsushima played a major role in defending Japan against invasions from the Asian continent and developing trade lines with Baekje and Silla of Korea. After Baekje, which was helped by Japan, was defeated by Silla and Tang Dynasty forces at the Battle of Hakusukinoe in 663, Japanese border guards were sent to Tsushima, and Kaneda Castle was constructed on the island.

Tsushima Province was controlled by the Tsushima no Kuni no miyatsuko (対馬国造) until the Heian period, and then by the Abiru clan until the middle of the 13th century. The role and title of "Governor of Tsushima" was exclusively held by the Shōni clan for generations. However, since the Shōni actually resided in Kyūshū, it was the Sō clan, known subjects of the Shōni, who actually exerted control over these islands. The Sō clan governed Tsushima until the late 15th century.

Medieval history

Tsushima was an important trade center during this period. After the Toi invasion, private trade started between Goryeomarker, Tsushima, Ikimarker, and Kyūshū, but halted during the Mongol invasions of Japan between 1274 and 1281. Koryosa, a historian of the Goryeo dynasty, mentions that in 1274, an army of Mongol troops that included many Korean soldiers killed a great number of people on the islands.

Tsushima became one of the major bases of the Wokou, Japanese pirates, also called wakō, along with the Iki and Matsuura. Due to repeated pirate raids, the Goryeos and their successors, the Joseonsmarker, at times placated the pirates by establishing trade agreements, as well as negotiating with the Muromachi shogunate and its deputy in Kyūshū, and at times used force to neutralize the pirates. In 1389, General Park Wi (朴威) of Goryeo attempted to clear the island of Wokou pirates, but uprisings in Korea forced him to return home.

On June 19, 1419, the recently-abdicated king Taejong of Joseon ordered his trusted general Yi Jong-mu to make an expedition to Tsushima and clear the island of the Wokou pirates, using a fleet of 227 vessels and 17,000 soldiers. However the Joseon Army soon retreat to their homeland and returned Tsushima to the Sō clan.

In 1510, Japanese traders initiated an uprising against Joseon's stricter policies on Japanese traders from Tsushima and Iki coming to Busanmarker, Ulsanmarker and Jinhaemarker to trade. The So Clan supported the uprising, but it was soon crushed. The uprising was later came to be known as the "Three-Ports incident" (삼포왜란, 三浦の乱). Trade resumed under the direction of King Jungjong in 1512, but only under strictly limited terms, and only twenty-five ships were allowed to visit Joseon annually.

In the late 16th century, Japanese leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi united the various feudal lords (daimyo) under his command. Planning to unite all factions with a common cause, Hideyoshi's coalition invaded Joseon Dynastymarker Korea in an attack leading to the Seven-Year War. Tsushima was the main naval base for this invasion, and in continuing support of the war, large numbers of Korean laborers were transported to Tsushima until 1603.

After Japan's attempts at conquest failed, peace was re-established between the two nations. Once again, the islands became a port for merchants. Both the Joseon Dynasty and the Tokugawa shogunate sent their trading representatives to Tsushima, governing trade until 1755.

Modern history

The Imperial Russian Navy tried to establish a base on the island in 1861, but the effort failed due to British intervention. (See Tsushima Incident).

As a result of the abolition of the han system, the Tsushima Fuchu domain became part of Izuhara Prefecture in 1871. In the same year, Izuhara Prefecture was merged with Imari Prefecture, which was renamed Saga Prefecturemarker in 1872. Tsushima was transferred to Nagasaki Prefecture in 1872, and its districts of Kamiagata (上県) and Shimoagata (下県) were merged to form the modern city of Tsushima. This change was part of widespread reforms within Japan which started after 1854. Japan was at this time becoming a modern nation state and regional power, with widespread changes in government, industry, and education.

After the First Sino-Japanese War ended with the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Japan felt humiliated when the Triple Intervention of the three great powers of Germany, France, and Russia forced it to return the valuable Liaodong Peninsulamarker to China under threat of force. Consequently, the Japanese leadership correctly anticipated that a war with Russia or another Western imperial power was eventually likely. Between 1895 and 1904, the Japanese navy blasted the Manzeki-Seto canal 25 m wide and 3 m deep, which was later expanded to 40 m wide and 4.5 m deep ( Nagasaki prefectural website), through a mountainous rocky isthmus of the island, between Aso Bay to the west and Tsushima Strait to the east, technically dividing the island into three islands ( topographical map). Strategic concerns explain the scope and funding of the canal project by Japan during an era when it was still struggling to establish an industrial economy. The canal enabled the Japanese to move transports and warships quickly between their main naval bases in the Inland Seamarker (directly to the east), via the Kanmonmarker and Tsushima Strait, into the Korea Straitmarker, or to destinations beyond in the Yellow Seamarker.

During the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Rozhdestvensky, after making an almost year-long trip to East Asia from the Baltic coast, was crushed by the Japanese under Admiral Togo Heihachiro at the Battle of Tsushimamarker. The Japanese third squadron (cruisers) began shadowing the Russian fleet off the tip of the south island, and followed it through the Tsushima Strait where the main Japanese fleet waited. The battle began at slightly east-northeast of the northern island around midday, and ended to its north a day later when the Japanese surrounded the Russian Fleet. The Battle of Tsushima remains history's only sea battle fought by modern battleship fleets. Few battles in history have been so decisive.

During the Korean War when the Korean People's Army approached the coastal areas of South Koreamarker near Busanmarker in August 1950, many prominent South Koreans took refuge in Tsushima.

In the 1973 one of the transmitters for the OMEGA-navigation system was built on Tsushima. It was dismantled in 1998.

Today, Tsushima is part of Nagasaki Prefecturemarker of Japan. On March 1, 2004, the six towns on the island, including Izuhara, Mitsushima, Toyotama, Mine, Kami-agata, and Kami-tsushima, were merged to create the city of Tsushima.

Notable people from Tsushima

Further reading

  • Ian Nish, A Short History of JAPAN, 1968, LoCCC# 68-16796, Fredrick A. Praeger, Inc., New York, 238 pp.
: British Title and Publisher: The Story of Japan, 1968, Farber and Farber, Ltd.
  • Edwin O Reischauer, Japan - The Story of a Nation, 1970, LoCCC# 77-10895 Afred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 345 pp. plus index.
:Previously published as Japan Past and Present, 4 Editions, 1946–1964.

See also


  1. MaqQuest on Tsushima Island's coordinates.
  2. location of Tsushima.
  3. article on Tsushima
  4. Aerial view of the junction between the two islands of Tsushima Island
  5. Water level view of the junction between the two islands of Tsushima Island
  6. Meteorologic data in Izuhara (厳原), Tsushima by Japan Meteorological Agency
  7. Meteorologic data in Izuhara (厳原), Tsushima by Japan Meteorological Agency - most ~ 10th largest value on record
  8. Meteorologic data in Nagasaki (長崎) by Japan Meteorological Agency
  9. BBC article on typhoons

External links

Japanese-based infosites

Korean-based infosites

Other infosites


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