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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.

Shimabara Castle in Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan.

Shimabara castle is the white version of Kumamoto’s equally impressive black castle.

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.

View over Mount Unzen Hot Spring - Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture Japan

Shimabara is overflowing with hot springs heated by fiery Mt. Unzen.

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.

Things To Know

Getting Around

Shimabara is easily accessible on foot for major sites, but buses are also available.

How To Get There


Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture, 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.

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. ¥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 taking around 1 hour and 45 minutes.

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’s 1 hour and 30 minutes.

By foot

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.

Where To Stay

Shimabara Station Hotel
  • 930 Imagawamachi, Shimabara-shi, Nagasaki, 855-0046 Japan
  • ¥7,000 - ¥20,000
  • 3.38/5 (850 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Shimabara Seaside Hot Spring Hotel Nampuro
  • 2-7331-1 Bentemmachi, Shimabara-shi, Nagasaki, 855-0802 Japan
  • ¥12,100 - ¥14,300
  • 4.56/5 (2,188 reviews)
  • 1.0 km
Shimabara Onsen Ryokan Kaibouso
  • 45 Shimokawashirimachi, Shimabara-shi, Nagasaki, 855-0861 Japan
  • ¥8,720 - ¥18,700
  • 3.69/5 (140 reviews)
  • 2.4 km
Hotel Seaside Shimabara
  • 1-38-1 Shimminato, Shimabara-shi, Nagasaki, 855-0862 Japan
  • ¥6,500 - ¥44,000
  • 2.8 km