Shimabara, located on the east coast of the Shimabara Peninsula, has long been a cultural and economic focal point of the peninsula after once being developed as a castle town.
Shimabara Castle took seven years to complete after the commencement of construction in 1618 but today’s castle tower is a five-story 1964 reconstruction of the original, used as a museum for displaying items related to local history. The Christian museum therein exhibits materials centered on the ‘Shimabara Rebellion’ alongside materials from the mid-16th century when trade with Portugal and Spain flourished and many missionaries were coming to Japan to preach. Also covered is the early 17th century when the crackdown on Christians started. People in the area once, in 1637, rose in rebellion against heavy taxation and cruel persecution in the aforementioned Shimabara Rebellion and most of the rebels were Christians. Relics related to the Christian martyrdom can be seen all over the peninsula.
Shimabara is also famous for its fine clear water. Mount Unzen erupted in 1792 and after the eruption, clear water started to appear at many places in Shimabara. A spring water canal runs through the main street of the old samurai sector where the lower class warriors lived – about 5 mins walk from the castle.
The Sightseeing Trocco Railway runs around the foot of Mount Unzen between April and November and all seats need a reservation to enjoy the explanation of the eruption of Mount Fugen in 1990 and post eruption reconstruction in addition to coverage of some of the history of Shimabara. Visitors can even experience a simulated eruption at ‘Unzendake Saigai-kinenkan’ (Mount Unzen Disaster Museum).