Location and Geography of Shimabara Castle
Shimabara Castle is a five-story castle built by Matsukura Shigemasa around 1618 during the Edo Period (1603-1868). This Castle is located in Shimabara City, situated between Ariake Bay, and Mount Unzen. One of the greatest and most noteworthy features one will notice while visiting Shimabara Castle are the amazing views of both land and sea.
Shimabara Castle stood as one of the biggest compared to other feudal lords of this time. In Japan, castles size would often be linked to the amount of money(rice production) the land produced. Compared to other feudal lords, Shimabara also had increased wealth through trading with the Portuguese. Since increased trade alone was not enough to take on this endeavor, Matsukura Shigemasa also issued heavy taxation. This however, was issued during a time of increased famine. Heavy taxation along with the increased persecution of Christians in Japan during this time, would later lead to what would be known as the Shimabara Rebellion. The Shimabara Rebellion would turn out to be one of the biggest uprisings during the time of Tokugawa Shogunate’s rule.
At the peak of the Shimabara Rebellion, 37,000 peasants, along with samurai still loyal to the previous clan, went up against a shogunate force of 120,000. Facing food shortage, the rebel group was not able to hold off any longer, resulting in a quick defeat. No rebel survived, as all remaining surviving members were executed.
The castle was taken down in 1874 during the Meiji Restoration due to the implementation of the “Castle Abolishment Law”, put in place to stop feudalism. It would not be until 1964 that a replica castle would be built.
The Castle Today
The outer walls of the castle are the only remaining structures left. The reconstructed castle is made
out of concrete and was built with more modern material. The inside of the castle is now a museum, with each floor offering information on the history of Shimabara Castle, as well as showing documents, Christian artifacts, artwork, and other items that were in use during this time.
The surroundings of the castle includes beautiful gardens and yagura (towers) that act as museums. Behind the castle are many sculptures created by Seibo Kitamura (the sculptor of the famous statue at Nagasaki Peace Park), which are absolutely beautiful.
When first arriving, you will be driving between the high reaching stone walls, which will then lead to the impressive structure of Shimabara Castle. If there is one thing I would recommend, it would be to go to the very top floor of the castle, and take in the beautiful scenery of Mount Unzen and Ariake Bay.
Understanding the history of Shimabara Castle has helped me appreciate and enjoy this place so much more. The history is what makes this castle so important to Japan.
The staff is really friendly, and when first entering the castle grounds, you will be greeted by someone dressed up as a samurai! Walking into the castle, there are also numerous samurai costumes to try on and take pictures in. This is very fun and will leave you with a great memory of your time at Shimabara Castle. I personally enjoyed going to Shimabara Castle, and it is definitely worth a visit!
Have you been to Shimabara Castle, or plan to go? Let me know in the comments or send me a message and tell me know how it was, or ask any questions you may have! I would be happy to get in contact with you.