400th Anniversary

Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Shimabara Castle Construction: The Story of Shigemasa Matsukura, the Lord of Shimabara Castle

The Castle of Kaido – Biography of Shigemasa Matsukura


Yoshiyuki Amatsu

Mt. Bizan as seen from the Shimabara Castle Keep Observation Deck

-To the second

Shigemasa Shigemasa shook his head as the voice of Shinbei*1 overlapped with the voices of the people of Futami*2 who stood to see him off.
He took the overland route from Yamato to Kyushu and crossed the opposite shore by boat from Tsu in Higo Nagasu*3 to Takarai in Hizen, which was already the domain of the Hinoe clan. Shigemasa’s feet were unsteady after the long ride in the palanquin and on the boat, and his head was stupefied by the continuous rocking of the waves.
(I blame the mountain for this, too.)
I looked up at the ridge of the mountain rising in front of me.
The slope that rises sharply from the seashore is covered with lush green trees, making it look as if a forest has just been raised up. It was a beautiful and majestic mountain, similar to the mountains of Yamato.
Mr. Bungo,” a local man greeted us. The locals wish to greet you.
Shigemasa kept his eyes on the mountain and turned his body toward Shinbei.
I forgive you. Bring him.”
Shinpei then brought a small man of about 50 years old. He was dressed in a kosode and haori, and his well-tanned face had the appearance of a fisherman.
He was well dressed in a small kimono and haori, and his well-tanned face had the appearance of a fisherman. We are all delighted to have such a good lord.
Is Shimabara …… the name of the land around here?”
Shigemasa heard there more than blatant flattery.
Yes, sir. It is the name of the area north of here, in front of Maeyama*4.
I see.”
Takarai in Hizen Province is located on a peninsula jutting out into the Tsukushi Sea*5 and appears to be an independent island from the sea. In addition, the distance from the edge of the mountains to the seashore was close, and wide plains were limited. The name “Korai” is probably derived from its location.
“You, let’s hear your name.
Yes, my name is Genbei of Funatsu. My name is Genbei of Funatsu.”
I am Genbei of Funatsu. I will guide you to the castle of Hinoe, I ask you.
Shigemasa said this with the ease of a minor feudal lord, and finally saw Genbei’s flustered face.
The sailor on the boat said it was called Maeyama.
The mountain was still of concern to him. In a land where everything was so different from Yamato, only this mountain looked the same, and to Shigemasa, it even seemed to symbolize the connection between himself and this land.
He said, “Hee, it rises in front of Onsensan*6, so it is called Maeyama. Maeyama is the pride of the land.
I see. …… you also call it beautiful.
The sense of beauty differs greatly from place to place. The fact that he could feel the same way about the mountain in front of him now was proof that he would eventually become familiar with the area.
However, Shigemasa did not see only the beauty of Maeyama (Mt. Bizan). Mt. Kongo in Yamato is a sacred mountain related to En no Gyoja, and is also a mountain of severe ascetic practices. He felt that Mt. Maeyama must have the same severity.
This was nothing more than Shigemasa’s attitude toward the new management of his domain. Mount Kongo in Yamato is a sacred mountain associated with En no Gyōja, and it was also a rigorous mountain for Shugendō practices. I felt certain that there must be the same severity at Mount Maeyama. This is nothing more than Shigemasa’s attitude toward the management of his new domain.

Rhododendrons and Mount Kongo

I will make you my new Mount Kongo.
With this soliloquy, Shigemasa once again mounted his palanquin and headed south from Takara under the leadership of Genbei.
From Shimabara to Hinoe, a distance of about 6 ri*7, he proceeded slowly with a group of about 200 vassals brought from Yamato.
Along the way, they made appearances at villages such as Antoku*8, Fukae*9, and Ariake*10, and it was nighttime when the sun had set beyond Unzen*6 when they entered Hinoe*11 in Arima.
–The sun had set beyond Unzen*6 by the time the group entered Hinoe, Arima. It was July of the 12th year of the Genna Era, and he was 43 years old.

1 Shinbei Okamoto: Shinbei Okamoto, a close associate of Shigemasa Matsukura Bungomori.
2 Futami: Shigemasa’s former domain, Futami, Yamato Province, Yamato Country. Present-day Gojo City, Nara Prefecture.
3 Higo Nagasu: Present-day Nagasu-cho, Tamana-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture.
4 Maeyama: Present-day Mt. Mayuyama.
5 Tsukushikai: Present-day Ariake Sea.
6 Onsenzan: present-day Mt. Unzen
7 Roku-ri: One ri is about 3,9 kilometers. Six ri is about 23,4 kilometers.
8 Andoku: Around the southernmost part of present-day Shimabara City
9 Fukae: Around Fukae-cho in present-day Minami-Shimabara City
10 Ariake: Around present-day Ariake-cho, Minami-Shimabara City
11 Hinoe: Around present-day Kita-arimacho in Minami-shimabara City. Shigemasa and his party moved southward to Antoku, Fukae, Ariie, and Hinoe.
12 Genwa: The Genwa era is from 1615 to 1624. The second year of the Genna era is 1616.