Walk in the footsteps of samurai.
In the shadow of a live volcano, along southeastern Nagasaki prefecture, you’ll find Shimabara city. It’s a place that maintains an old-world feel of a time when there were katana-wielding samurai strolling down the street.
Once a major seat of power, Shimabara had its own castle during the Edo period. Its costly construction was a leading cause behind the Shimabara Rebellion (1637 – 1638), a revolt that pitted Christian peasants against the ruling class. The reconstructed castle that you see today was built in 1964 and is based on designs of the original castle. Inside, you can find exhibits on Christian and local history.
West of the castle grounds, you can imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of samurai. Here, former samurai houses have been maintained and feature running canals of fresh spring water through the street, for which Shimabara is famous.
A few minutes south of the castle grounds will lead you to the sometimes sleepy Shimabara Sanshine Shopping Arcade. The arcade offers several food options for those hoping to get a bite to eat or a drink. There’s often live music at night too.
Hankering for a Shimabara specialty? Try some its guzouni, a filling soup dish made of vegetables, chicken, and rice cakes. Shimabara somen (cold noodles) and karaage (fried chicken) are also especially delicious.
Should you find yourself hoping to experience something quintessentially Japan, head east of the arcade to the Shinmachi area. Here you can spot spring water canals along the road teeming with koi fish. Nearby, there’s also the Shimeiso Spring Garden, which offers visitors a chance to enjoy a cup of green tea in a traditional Japanese house overlooking a koi pond for free. It’s open from 9:00 to 17:00.
Shimabara, like the rest of the peninsula, is blessed with hot springs. The waters are great for healing travel fatigue among other ailments. Additionally, many of the onsen at various hotels that dot Shimabara’s coastline offer great sunrise views over the Ariake Sea, so take an early morning dip and start your day off feeling refreshed. Unzen Onsen is also nearby.
Shimabara also offers a powerful backdrop in the form of live volcano Mt. Unzen. While it’ll occasionally smoke on any given day, it hasn’t erupted since 1996. If interested, you can learn more about Mt. Unzen and its volcanic nature at the Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall in southeastern Shimabara.