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  • All about the Shimabara Rebellion
  • About the feudal lords
  • All About 'Shimabara Castle'
  • All about the 'Castle Town'

1. Why did the revolt of Shimabara happen?
Because politics of the feudal lord, Matsukura Shigetsugu (Iekatsu), was not good, the citizens of the domain raised a riot. The reasons,

(1) The tributes increased.
(2) The weather was bad, and there was a little harvest, and the tribute could not be paid.
(3) The lord still collected the tribute strictly.
(4) Christianity was controlled severely. The dissatisfaction of the people rose

2. Whereabouts did the rebellion take place?
It started on October 25th, 1637 in Arima’s village. People in each village attacked the Shimabara castle on the 26th but they failed. Moreover, the farmer’s resistance started in various places such as Mie and Kushiyama. When November came, the farmers in Amakusa raised a revolt and attached Tomioka castle and other places.
In December, the farmers of Shimabara gathered around the ruins of Hara castle and kept resisting

3. Were there any strategies for their fight?
The farmers gathered in each village and decided defense positions. The village headmen of the villages became mediators and led the villagers and took care of them every day. The masterless samurai became councilors, prepared for the fighting and taught military affairs. The villager believed in Christianity again and prayed to God every day.

4. How long did they shut themselves up in the Ruins of Hara Castle?
For three months. (From December 14th to February 28th 1638 when they were exterminated)

5. How many people took part in the revolt?
27,000 to 37,000 farmers took part. As for the south side of Shimabara Peninsula most of the people joined and as for the Amakusa side many more people of the Ariake sea side joined in it. Even some children, old people and women were included.
As for the samurai¥shogunate side, about 120,000 soldiers participated, each Kyushu feudal clan soldiers and Fukuyama feudal clan came from a long distance.
27,000 to 37,000 were killed for the rebellion (farmers) side, 2,400 casualties of the Shogunate feudal clan side

6. What kind of weapon did they use?
The farmers used anything, such as a gun, a sword, a spear, a sickle, a hoe, a stone or a wooden stick.
The samurai had guns, swords; a cannon (brought in from the Dutch ship).

7. What did they eat during the fight?
Since rice, wheat, vegetables, etc. were brought in when shutting themselves up, they ate them. Rice was taken from the warehouse of Shimabara domain. At first there was some food, but food ran short at the end. They took seaweed at the seashore, grasses and roots and ate them

8. How large was the Hara Castle?
It is about 12 hectares at 1000-1200 meters in length to 200-300 meters in width

9. What is a ‘Kiristan’?
It is a Christian. Christianity spread out in Shimabara from 1563, and most of the residents of the domain were Christians, about 30,000 believers.

10. What kind of person was Amakusa Shiro?
He was a son of Masuda Jinbe, a vassal of Konishi Yukinaga who was the fudal lord of Uto Domain. He was called ‘Shiro Tokisada’. He was thought to be born in 1623. He learned Christianity and various studies in Nagasaki. The revolt started at the age of 16, and he became everybody’s mediator

11. Why did Amakusa Siro become the learder?
Because he was a central figure who gathered up 30,000-40,000 farmers, and became the symbol. He also became the central person of the faith and played a role of the priest. He became, in a way, God of this world

1. What kind of politics did Matsukura Shigemasa do?
(1) The construction (the making of territory nation’s capital) of Shimabara Castle and the castle town.
(2) The land survey and knew the economic conditions in the domain.
(3) The construction of ponds or dikes improved agriculture production capacity.
(4) Achieved profit by Western trade, and enjoyed a rich finance.
(5) Controlled Christianity severely

2. Why Lord did Matsukura build Shimabara Castle?
(1) As the center of the government of the domain, Hara and Hinoe castles were
deviated to the south and was inconvenient.
(2) It was necessary to keep the castle away from the center of the Christians.
(3) To show the authority of the new feudal lord widely.
(4) In case of a battle, a big and strong castle was needed to ensure the foothold in the defense.

3. Where does Mr. Matsukura come from?
Originally he is from Ecchu (Toyama), he was in the post of senior retainer of vassal, Tsutui Jyunkei of Toyotomi Hideyoshi formerly. Because he entered the government service to Tokugawa Ieyasu after the fall of Tsutsui and participated actively in a camp battle of Osaka, he succeeded and became a lord of Yamato Gojo (Nara prefecture) yielding 10,000 koku. In 1616, Matsukura Shigemasa came over as a fief lord of Shimabara yielding 40,000 koku

4. Where did Lord Matsudaira come from and for what purpose?
(1) The shogunate government sent a hereditary daimyo out to Shimabara domain. Because Lord Matsukura took the responsibility for the revolt of Shimabara, and Lord Koriki also failed in politics after he came to Shimabara, he was sent off to recover the confused state of this territory.
(2) The Matsudaira family was chosen as a watchdog and Nagasaki magistrate’s guardian (surveillance of overseas trade etc.) among a lot of outside vassals (Fudai Daimyos) in Kyushu.
(3) The family came from Fukozu (Aichi prefecture). They had been transferred to Shinobu, Omigawa, Kariya, Yoshida and Fukuchiyama (Kyoto prefecture). In the year 1669, Tadafusa Matsudaira came over to this domain

5. Why is it that Mr. Matsudaira took the place of Mr. Toda before he finished his office?
Tadamasa, the fifth lord, was too young to take the responsibilities as a watchdog of Nagasaki port and the behind-the-scene superintendent at the age of 12. So he was made to take the place by Mr. Toda Tadamitsu from Utsunomiya domain in 1749.

6. Who else took an active part besides Lord Matsukura?
The Matsudaira clan followed 13 generations from Tadafusa. The feudal lords are as follows

(1) Matsudaira Tadafusa’1669(Kanbun 9th )-1700(Genroku 13th ), died of an illness in Edo(81 years old); Heritary vassel(Fudai) from Mikawa domain: the founder of Shimabara-Matsudaira family

(2) Matsudaira Tadataka’1698(Genruoku 11th )-1736(Ganbun 1st ), died of an illness in Edo(63 years old), Produced ‘The Shimabara survey report’

(3) Matsudaira Tadami’1735(Kyouho 20th )-1738(Genbun 3rd )’ died of an illness in Shimabara(27 years old);Erected ‘Fugendo’ and 30 Banjin

(4) Matsudaira Tadatoki’ 1738 (Genbun 3rd )- 1749 (Kan’en 2nd ) Suddenly died in Kudamatsu(33 years old); planted 100,000 wax trees

(5)Matsudaira Tadamasa’1749 (Kan’en 2nd )- 1762(Horeki 12th ) Succeeded his father in 1749, but were made to transfer to Utsunomiya because of his early age; died at the age of 63
Toda Tadamitsu’ 1749 (Kan’en 2nd )Moved from Utsunomiya- 1781 (Tenmei 1st ) died at the age of 52 ; exchanged the lords with Matsudaira clan
Toda Tadahiro’ 1754 (Horeki 4th )- 1,774 (An’ei 3rd ) moved to Utsunomiya

(6) Matsudaira Tadahiro’1775(An’ei 4th )-1792 (Kansei 4th ) died in Moriyama at the age of 50; His dream came true and moved back to Shimabara, but died suddenly of the outbreak of the Kansei Catastrophe

(7) Matsudaira Tadayari’1792 (Kansei 4th )-1819 (Bunsei 2nd ), died of an illness in Edo(48 years old), devoted himself to the revival from the calamity; founded a domain school called ‘Keiko kan’ (an martial school)

(8) Matsudaira Tadayori’1819 (Bunsei 2nd )-1840 (Tenpo 11th ), died of an illness in Shimabara(41 years old), Founded a domain school ‘Saishu kan’, Ote-beach reclamation

(9) Matsudaira Tadanari’ 1840 (Tenpo 11th )- 1847 (Koka 4th ) died of an illness in Edo(23 years old), a castaway ‘Shiamabara Takichi’ came back from Mexico

(10) Matsudaira Tadakiyo’ 1847 (Koka 4th )- 1859 (Ansei 6th ) died of an illness in Shimabara(27 years old)
Putyatin visited Nagasaki port; the Shimabara feudal clan dispatched the troops;
Japan opened the country

(11) Matsudaira Tadaatsu’ 1859 (Ansei 6th )- 1860 (Man’en 1st ) died of an illness in
Edo(16 years old)Premature death, unable to take up his new post in Shimahara

(12) Matsudaira Tadachika’ 1860 (Man’en 1st) -1862 (Bunkyu 2nd ) died of an illness in Edo(17 years old); the lord died young again

(13) Matsudaira Tadakazu’ 1862 (Bunkyu 2nd )- 1869 (Meiji 2nd )
Restoration of the Imperial Rule; Return of the land and people from the feudal
lords to the Emperor. Became the first governor of the Shimabara domain.
Withdrew to Tokyo, and the castle demolished in 1872(Meiji 5th )


1. Who made the castle? And when and for what purpose?
It took seven years with a total of 1,000,000 people and was completed by Matsukura Shigemasa in 1624. As a center of the politics of Lord Matsukura, he made a large-scaled castle

2. When did it become an abandoned castle?
The Shogunate and the feudal clan was destroyed, and the castle was abandoned in
1871, and the building was dismantled, and the land was sold off. The castle tower was finally demolished five years later, too

3. Please let us know the size of Shimabara Castle. ?
(1) The height of a castle tower is about 33m. It’s 5-storied, the first floor is 432 ‡u (288 tatamis’ covering) and the fifth floor is 48 ‡u. There are three third-storied towers and they are about 13m in height.
(2) The size of the main enclosure is 28,000‡u. The secondary enclosure 13,400 ‡u. The third enclosure 42,000‡u
(3) The whole castle size is 379,962 ‡u.

4. About the moat
About 15 meters in depth ( maximum). 30-50 meters in width.
The circumference of the main enclosure and the outworks of the castle are 1,300 meters. A big moat was built deeply to protect the castle. Projections called the convex angles are prepared in the main enclosure and the secondary enclosure so that the dead angles on defense may not come out.

5. How did they get the material to build the castle?
(1) stone; dug up and carried from the neighborhood, but not from Hara Castle or Hinoe Castle.
(2) Lumber: buildings, such as Hara castle, were also utilized from every place in the domain.
(3) Many tools’ purchased from Nagasaki and the various cities along the Ariake Sea, such as Kumamoto and Yanagawa. They were carried to the castle by ship. The waterfront was a good port; it’s more than 5 meters in depth. More than 300 ships were able to anchor there.

6. What were devised in the construction of the castle?
(1) Because the moat was big and deep, it is impossible to enter the castle directly. In
addition, convex angles were made, and there were not blind spots.
(2) A corridor bridge were made between the main enclosure and the outworks of the castle so it was impossible to invade the main enclosure when the bridge was cut off.
(3) Because the whole view of Ote-mon Gate and the major open space could be commanded from the castle tower, it’s advantageous to defend the castle.
(4) The scale was big for a daimyo of four Mangoku

7. How did the feudal lord live in the castle?
The feudal lord lived in the third enclosure. In addition, there was an office to carry out politics there. The main enclosure and the castle tower were supposed to be the place for barricading and shutting themselves up at the time of war.
The lord went up to Edo annually (daimyo’s alternate-year residence in Edo), and lived in the Edo mansion and the Shimabara palace by turns. He might have had a very luxurious life.

8. How many samurais lived? And what kind of life did they lead?
200 senior samurais and about 800 low-class samurais (common soldiers) lived. There were about 4,000 people including their families. Senior samurais had their residences around the castle or in Jyounai (what is called ‘Jyonai 2-3 chome’ now). Low-class samurais lived in Teppo-machi (what is called ‘Samurai-house zone’).

9. Was there any well in the samurai residence?
There was a well in the mansion of the senior samurai, but the mansion of the low-class samurai did not have one. So the low-class samurai used the water of a waterway which still remains. This waterway was made when Lord Matsukura constructed the castle, and the water comes from Sugitani Gongen in the north.

1. What did the castle town look like?
The castle town was divided into the 3-cho. The population of the town was 7,971 people (men 4033, women 3938):
(1) Hori-machi’Sakura-machi, Shirachi-machi, Shiratsu Funatsu etc.(415 houses)
(2) Shin-machi’Arima-cho, Yorozu-cho, Shimmachi, Furoyacho, Urata Funatsu(449 houses)
(3) Mie-machi’ Mie-Hon-cho, Naka-machi, Kata-machi, Miyano-cho (349 houses)

There was a town official called ‘Betto’, and he managed the town. Furu-machi’ Nakamura Magozaemon, Shin-machi’ Kumabe Mokuzaemon, Mie-machi’ Anegawa Ibe
The castle town was damaged seriously after the Shimabara catastrophe in 1792, and changed greatly. Furu-machi and Shin-machi were reborn. Minato-machi was newly made at the southern part and it prospered very much as the center of the Ariake sea traffic.

2. What kind of festivals were there?
There was an annual festival at Takeshima Shrine from August 13 to 15, there was also a Dance (A Big Dance and A Small Dance). The sumo wrestling of Matsushima was held on September 13. The annual festival of Hyoutan-inari Shrine was held on February first Horse Day. There was also an annual festival in each village. O-ichi (the first marked festival) from February 3. There was also floating lanterns for the spirits of the dead of the Bon Festival.

3. What kind of shop was there in 3, the castle town?
wine shops 15, malt shops 15 , blacksmith’s 14, dyehouse 30, craftsman of Japanese cypress 5, pail maker 13, tatami mat makers 3,
japanner 3, metal fittings 2, oilman 5. In addition to these shops and people, there were many notion stores, side-dish shops and peddlers and etc.

4. What kind of living did they live in the castle town?
(1) They worked hard in their business. Stocking, processing, sales to farmer and samurais. Some broadened the market to the outside of the territory.
(2) In a shop, there were a master, a clerk, an assistant manager and an apprentice. There were also a proprietress and a maid.
(3) The contrast between good times and bad times were very big.
(4) Meanwhile, the wealthy merchant was also born under such circumstances. Some of the shop names still remain.

5. Do such old buildings still remain?
Yamazaki family (a liquor store called ‘Komatsu-ya’) in Shirachi-machi. Honda family (a former liquor store called ‘Shio-ya’) in Shirachi-machi. Horikawa family (an inn called ‘Hirado-ya’). Horibe family (a cotton shop called ‘Wataya’) in Yorozu-machi. More than 10 stores of these kinds still remain.

6. Are there any difference from now?
Clothes’ A kimono (a Japanese traditional clothes), sandals and clogs, a married
woman’s coiffure and a topknot.
Food’ Mainly natural things such as rice, wheat, fish, vegetables; all were pure
domestic products. Mostly things produced in the domain.
Shelter’ Houses made of wood, straw and paper. No energy such as electricity or oil. No machines, either.

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