Unzen – Shimabara



Unzen: Details you will find here.

In 1927, Unzen was ranked 1st in the mountain category for the New Eight Views of Japan, and in 1934 was designated as our country’s first national park. Unzen’s nature has been preciously preserved since days of old, and is an encyclopedia of nature.

Mount Unzen and Shimabara City

Mount Unzen is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Japan. In 1792, around 15,000 people were killed when part of the mountain broke away and slipped into the sea. This resulted in a 20 meter high tsunami that almost completely destroyed the city of Shimabara.
After a long period of rest there was an outbreak in 1991 which claimed 43 lives.

Mount Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall

A visit here is highly recommended. You get a deeper impression of how the eruption went in 1991. Very interesting!

Shimabara Uprising

During the Shimabara uprising, Japanese peasants, most of them Christians, rose against the Tokugawa shogunate in 1637-1638.
The rebellion broke out on December 17, 1637. The main reason had less to do with their Christianity, but with the high tax burden that was imposed on them.
The uprising included up to 23,000 farmers and ronin (abandoned samurai), many of whom were women. They were led by Amakusa Shiro (also called Masuda Tokisada).
The governor of Nagasaki sent an army of 3,000 samurai to Amakusa, but it was crushed to death on December 27, 1637, with 2,800 deaths. The governor requested reinforcement from the shogunate. After subsequent fighting, the rebels had to retreat to Shimabara with around 1,000 soldiers killed.
They occupied Shimabara Castle and took over Hara Fortress.
The Shogunate troops began to fire artillery on the fortress, but this did not have the desired effect.
An increasing army from the Shogunate besieged the fortress for months and suffered great losses. On February 3, 1638 there was a surprising counterattack by the rebels, in which 2,000 samurai fell.
In the fortress, however, ammunition and provisions slowly ran out.
In March the Shogunat’s army grew to 200,000 soldiers. They faced 30,000 rebels.
On April 12, 1638, the storm on Hara followed. The army lost approximately 10,000 soldiers in fierce battles before being victorious on April 15, 1638.
No prisoners were taken. All survivors were beheaded.
Amakusa Shiro’s head was brought to Nagasaki and put on display there. The Hara fortress was destroyed.

The shogunate suspected western Catholics of the rebellion. As a result, Portuguese traders were expelled from the country. An existing ban on Christianity was strengthened. As a result, the Christians could only survive in hiding.

From that time until 1860 there were no major battles in Japan. For the next 10 generations of the Edo period, most samurai never fought in battle.