Shimabara Castle [島原城]
Stone wall and moat of Shimabara Castle
Shimabara is a small city located about 60 km east of Nagasaki city.
It is on the eastern coast of Shimabara Peninsula, and faces Ariake Bay.
There is Mount Unzen volcano about 8 km west-southwest of this city.
In 1624, Shimabara Castle was completed by Matsukura Shigemasa (1574-1630).
He was a new lord in this area moved in 1616.
After that, Shimabara developed as a castle town.
Originally, there were many Christians from the late 16th century.
The former lord of Matsukura was also a Christian, but he had been moved by the government's policy of banning Christianity.
But Matsukura was an ambitious man, so he imposed heavy taxes on the people to achieve his big plans.
Additionally, he suppressed Christianity.
The poor farmers who were unable to pay the heavy tax and the Christians were tortured brutally and put to death.
View from Shimabara Castle
Old rest house in Shimabara Castle
At last, Shimabara citizens rose in revolt against the tyranny of Matsukura in 1637.
After four months of battle, the revolt was suppressed by the great government troops sent from many domains in Kyushu Region.
But most of the residents (about 37,000 people) in Shimabara had been killed, so Shimabara had been a ghost town.
Of course, the government placeed the blame on Matsukura, then he was put to death.
This big civil war led the government to the policy of seclusion.
And it is called "Shimabara Rebellion" and is recorded as the greatest civil war in the history of Japan.
After that, the new lord worked for immigration policy from the other areas.
Then this city had been restored.
After the end of feudal Edo government in 1868, Shimabara Castle was demolished in 1871.
Entrance of castle tower
Samurai swords & armors
displaying in Shimabara Castle
Shimabara Castle is located in the center of the city, and is about 0.3 km west of Shimabara station on Shimabara Railway.
The site is about 400 meters from north to south and about 200 meters from east to west.
It is surrounded some moats.
Many original stone walls remain and the site is a park now.
There is the castle tower in the south part of the site.
It was restored in 1964, and has the museum and an observatory.
In the museum, the castle and "Shimabara Rebellion" are introduced and samurai swords and armors are displayed.
Samurai town in Shimabara
Inside of Buke-yashiki in Shimabara
In addition, the northwestern district of the castle had the samurai residenced from the 17th to the early 19th centuries.
The former samurai town is about 400 meters from north to south and about 300 meters from east to west.
Some long streets run from north to south in the area, and there had been the residences along the street.
And a ditch is set up along each street.
Now, three samurai residences (武家屋敷, "Buke-yashiki" in Japanese) are opened to the public.
How to get here
By JR limited express, to Isahaya, about 20 minutes from Nagasaki, about 1 hour 40 to 55 minutes from Hakata.
Change to the train of Shimabara Railway, from Isahaya to Shimabara, about 1 hour 10 to 20 minutes.