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Beaches, breweries and bottle-nosed dolphins.

Originally, Minami-shimabara consisted of eight individual towns, but they were consolidated into one city beginning in March 2006. Although combined, each town has maintained its own individual personalities and mascots. From west to east, there’s Kazusa, Kuchinotsu, Minamiarima, Kitaarima, Nishiarie, Arie, Futsu, and Fukae.

While considered a sleepy, coastal city when compared to nearby Isahaya or Shimabara, the region was anything but tranquil during the Edo period. It was the primary battleground of the Shimabara Rebellion, a peasant-led uprising that lasted from 1637 to 1638.

A train in Minami-shimabara

This quaint collection of towns has a violent past. Photo by Takeshi Kuboki.

The largely Christian group of rebels took shelter in the unused Hara Castle, presently in Minami-arima, before being decimated by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Today, all that remains of the castle are a few ruins. You can find out more about the rebellion and Minami-shimabara’s Christian history by heading to the Arima Christian Heritage Museum in Minami-arima. It’s open everyday except Thursdays and New Year’s holidays from 9:00 to 18:00.

The city offers a number of different activities and sites. For those planning on just sitting back and relaxing on a beach towel, you’ll want to grab your sunblock and head to one of its four primary beaches: Maehama (Kazusa), Nodahama (Kazusa), Shirahama (Kuchinotsu), and Marine Park (Arie). Just be careful when taking a dip as jellyfish are known to gather in early fall.

Off the coast of Kazusa and Kuchinotsu, a large pod of dolphins can often be spotted.

Both towns offer dolphin-watching tours that cost about ¥2,500 for an hour tour. You’ll not only get to see these inquisitive sea mammals up close, but the tours also provide ample opportunity to take in the Minami-shimabara coast.

Cold somen noodles are a fantastic summer food.

Cold somen noodles are a fantastic summer food.

The overlapping towns of Nishi-arie and Arie are ideal for grabbing a bite and a drink. Nishi-arie is famous for its somen – thin, white noodles that are typically served cold. Arie, meanwhile, is known for its sake, with several breweries coming together and holding sake festivals in early spring and mid-fall.

Nishi-arie and Arie are also noted for their waterfalls. If you have a car and some time, head up the hills to check out the Tonosumi waterfall above Nishi-arie and the Ayugaeri waterfall in Arie.

An interesting sight to watch out for is Minami-shimabara’s number of abandoned train stations that are often found between the coast and Highway 251. Due to the costs of running and maintenance outweighing profits, Shimatetsu called it quits and pulled up its railway several years ago. Now its former stations and platforms are slowly being taken over my nature.

Things To Know

Dolphin Tours

Reservations must be made in advance for dolphin-watching tours. Kazusa Dolphin Watching are a reliable option.

How To Get There


1108 Nishiariechō Satobō, Minamishimabara-shi, Nagasaki-ken 859-2211, Japan

By train

From JR Nagasaki Station, you can take the limited express Kamome headed towards Hakata (25 minutes; ¥1,270 reserved seating, ¥760 unreserved), the JR Nagasaki Line for Isahaya (35 minutes; ¥460), or the JR Seaside Line for Sasebo (28 minutes; ¥460). Get off at Isahaya Station. Change to the Shimatetsu line for Shimabaragaiko (60 minutes; ¥1,430) to Shimabara Station.

From there, change to the bus line and take a bus headed towards Arie, Kuchinotsu or Kazusa.

By bus

From Fukuoka, take the Nishitetsu highway bus line directly to Shimabara Station or the Shimatetsu Bus Terminal. The Nishitetsu bus departs from both the Hakata Bus Terminal and the Nishitetsu Tenjin Expressway Bus Terminal. It takes approximately 3 hours and costs ¥2,980 one way/¥4,730 round trip. Reservations are required.

From Nagasaki Airport, there are sporadic buses starting in the afternoon headed towards the Shimabara Bus Terminal for ¥1,750. It takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.

From the Shimabara Bus Terminal, take a bus headed towards Arie, Kuchinotsu or Kazusa.

By car

From JR Nagasaki Station, it takes about 1 hours and 40 minutes by car. There are both toll and toll-free routes available.

From Nagasaki Airport, it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

By boat

From the Kumamoto Ferry Terminal, you can take the Kyusho Ferry or Kumamoto Ferry’s Ocean Arrow to the Shimabara Ferry Terminal. The Kyusho Ferry takes 60 minutes and a one-way ticket costs ¥780 for adults, ¥390 for children. The Ocean Arrow takes 30 minutes and a one-way ticket costs ¥1,000 for adults, ¥500 for children. Round-trip tickets are ¥1,900 for adults and ¥950 yen for children. Reservations are required for passengers bringing cars onboard. From the ferry terminal, take a bus headed towards Arie, Kuchinotsu or Kazusa.

From the Oniike Ferry Terminal, Amakusa, you can take the Shimatetsu Ferry to the Kuchinotsu Ferry Terminal. It takes about 30 minutes. It costs ¥360 for adults and ¥180 for children. The Kuchinotsu Ferry Terminal is in the same location as the bus terminal.

Where To Stay

Unzen Onsen Unzen Sky Hotel
  • 323-1 Obamacho Unzen, Unzen-shi, Nagasaki, 854-0621 Japan
  • ¥18,700 - ¥60,350
  • 4.28/5 (356 reviews)
  • 9.5 km

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