Region
Kyushu
Island
Kyushu
Largest City
Nagasaki
Population
1,516,536

Shimabara Castle

A picture-perfect castle with a not so picture-perfect history.

Perched on the eastern edge of the Shimabara Peninsula, this five-storied, white castle is a key feature of Shimabara city.

What most don’t realize, however, is that the castle today is actually a 1964 concrete replica. The original Shimabara Castle was built in 1618 under the rule of feudal lord Matsukura Shigemasa, despite there being two preexisting castles in the area.

The costs of this pricey new castle fell on the peasant class by raising taxes. It caused such a strain on the local populace that it was one of the factors behind the Shimabara Rebellion erupting from 1637 to 1638. The castle survived the rebellion largely unscathed and remained in use until the Meiji Period. In 1876, its structures were dismantled and the lands gained second uses as farmland and school grounds.

Shimabara Castle Nagasaki

Today, the 33-meter tall, reconstructed castle is a bustling tourist site. Photo by LuxTonnerre.

Within the castle walls you can find exhibits on Nagasaki’s Christian history, Shimabara’s local history, as well as folklore on the castle’s lower three floors. On the fifth floor, there’s an observation deck that looks out towards the volcanic Mt. Unzen and the Ariake Sea.

The castle grounds are also home to the Seibo Memorial Hall. Dedicated to legendary local sculptor Seibo Kitamura, who created Nagasaki Peace Park’s Peace Statue, the hall features a collection of his sketches, models, and statues.

Shimabara castle ssakura

Shimabara castle is always photo-ready. Photo by Christian Kaden.

Shimabara’s grounds offer perfect photo-ops if you’re hoping to capture the classic Japan shot of a tiered castle framed by flowers. Cherry trees line the castle perimeter, making it one of the most popular sites in Nagasaki prefecture to view cherry blossoms in spring. There’s also a deep moat surrounding the central castle grounds, where you can spot irises in the spring and lotuses in the summer.

Many festivals and events revolve around the castle, such as the annual Shimabara Onsen Shiranui Festival. Held in October, it’s set in motion with a Takigi Noh (Bonfire Noh) performance. Audiences get to watch a classic Noh play staged before the castle as it would have been experienced centuries earlier. Typically, organizers reserve decent seats for foreign guests, free of charge.

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Things To Know

Opening Hours

Daily, 9:00 to 17:30.

Tickets

¥520 Adults/¥270 Junior and Senior High School Students. Discounts are available for groups over 30 people.

Costume Rental

Ninja and Samurai costumes (children’s and adult sizes) are available for photo opportunities free of charge.

How To Get There

Address

855-0036, 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, it’s 10 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by car.

By bus

From Fukuoka, take the Nishitetsu highway bus line directly to Shimabara Station or Shimatetsu Bus Terminal. The Nishitetsu bus departs from both Hakata Bus Terminal and the Nishitetsu Tenjin Expressway Bus Terminal. It takes approximately 3 hours. Cost: ¥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 Shimatetsu Bus Terminal it takes 5 minutes by car or about 20 minutes on foot.

By car

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

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 there, it’s about 10 minutes by car or bus, or 40 minutes on foot.

Where To Stay

Shimabara Station Hotel
  • Imagawamachi 930 Shimabara-Shi, Nagasaki 855-0046
  • 7.5/10
  • 1.1 km
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Hotel Nanpuro
  • Benten 2-7331-1 Shimabara-Shi, Nagasaki 855-0802
  • 8.4/10
  • 2.1 km
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Shimabara Hakusan Hotel
  • Nakagumimachi 19 Shimabara-Shi, Nagasaki 855-0822
  • 7.8/10
  • 2.6 km
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Hotel Seaside Shimabara
  • Shinminato 1-38-1 Shimabara-Shi, Nagasaki 855-0862
  • 9.6/10
  • 3.8 km
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