Shimabara hanto (peninsula) is located in the Nagasaki Prefecture in southern Japan on the island of Kyushu. It is a very rural part of Japan, where the majority of the population undertakes some form of farming or fishing. There are no movie theaters or airports on the peninsula, however, there is no lack of things on the honto from cultural festivals to outdoor acitivities. The most striking feature of Shimabara honto is its centerpiece, Unzen-dake, a tempermental and oft times destructive volcano. It not only adds the minor illusion of danger to the area, but also incredible beauty.

Towns and Populations

Aino (4, 876)-Azuma (7, 725)-Mizuho (5, 998)-Kunimi (11, 458)-Ariake (11, 598)-Shimabara (39, 605)-Fukae (8, 149)-Futsu (5, 019)-Arie (9209)-Nishiearie (8756)-Kitaarima (4, 360)-Minamiarima (6, 408)-Kuchinotsu (6, 872)-Kazusa (8, 272)-Minamikushiyama (4, 795)-Obama (11, 571)-Chijiwa (5, 816)

A brief history

The Shimabara hanto has played an important role in Japanese history for centuries. There is evidence of Stone Age civilizations in the area, the most famous site located at Hyakkadai in Kunimi cho. The Stone Age was followed by the Jomon and then Yayoi civilizations, the latter of which received a great influx of culture from the continent. Around the 3rd century AD there was a gradual emergence of local aristocracy and these demonstrated their power and wealth with the construction of kofun, massive tomb mounds some of which remain to the modern day.

In the 13th century, the area now know as Nagasaki Prefecture came in first contact with the outside world. Missionaries and merchants from Portugal were welcomed on the peninsula by members of the Arima family. The ruler of Shimabara, Arima Haranobu, converted to Christianity in 1580 and under his influence the majority of the southern peninsula followed suit. Japan's first seminary was built in Kitaarima around this time.

As Japan unified under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Christianity came under attack. The new Shogun banned the religion and forced Christians to recant their beliefs. Those that would not were executed. The persecution intensified under his successor, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who also closed Japan to the outside world. At this time, the hot water springs in the mountain town of Unzen were used to boil unrecantant Christians.

Peasants on the peninsula, angered by the persecution and high taxation by local magistrates, rebelled. They assassinated local magistrates, sacked Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. They united with peasants from the nearby Amakusa islands under the leadership of 16-year-old Amakusa Shiro and encamped in the abandoned Hara Castle in what is now Minamiarima. They were surrounded by superior forces of the Bakufu, but held out for 3 months. At this time, 100% of the local population of the southern peninsula was executed and new settlers were brought in from Shikoku.

To get here

The Shimabara-honto can be reached easily by bus from Nagasaki or Isahaya to the west. There is also a train service from Isahaya which runs hourly. The hanto can also be reached by ferry from Omuta, Nagasu, Kumamoto, Misumi and Amakusa.

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