Japanese Castle Explorer

by Daniel O'Grady

Strongholds of the Samurai: Japanese Castles 250-1877 Imjin War book cover

Shimabara Castle

Images: Daniel O'Grady


Shimabara Domain

1616 - 1638

Matsukura Clan

40,000 Koku

1638 - 1668

Kōriki Clan

40,000 Koku

松平 (深溝)
1668 - 1747

Matsudaira (Fukōzu) Clan

65,000 Koku

1747 - 1774

Toda Clan

77,000 Koku

松平 (深溝)
1774 - 1871

Matsudaira (Fukōzu) Clan

65,000 Koku

Shimabara Castle is classified as a flatland castle (its layout: Renkakushiki), and is located in Nagasaki Prefecture. During the pre-modern age, it found itself within the borders of Hizen Province. It is associated with the Matsukura, Matsudaira clans. Dates in use: 1624 - 1871.

The conditions surrounding the building of this castle were extreme & actually resulted in a major rebellion involving almost 150,000 combatants. The father & son tag-team of Matsukura Shigemasa & Katsui overtaxed the local population in order to build what was a disproportionately large castle. This coupled with the cruel persecution of Christians, led to the rebellion.

Personally, I find this a pretty unappealing castle. Certainly, there are some interesting items on display within the main tower & outlying turrets but the car park that is the honmaru and the concreteness of its buildings, to me at least, scream aging theme park. The funny thing is that I would absolutely love it if there were nothing but ruined stonework.


1618 Construction of the castle commenced by the Matsukura having entered the domain two years earlier.
1625 The castle was completed.
1638 The Shimabara Rebellion. An uprising of 30,000 peasants occurred due to hardships brought upon them by the ruling Daimyō, the Matsukura. The Tokugawa assembled an army of 120,000 to crush the rebels. The famed swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, was in attendance on the Tokugawa side.
1638 The domain was awarded to the Koriki clan. They were removed from the domain in 1669 due to their mis governance.
1792 The Shimabara Catatrophe. Earthquakes were experienced in Shimabara causing a Tsunami that washed up against the castle walls.
1874 The castle was decommissioned.
1876 The main tower was torn down.
1960 The Nishino Turret was reconstructed.
1964 The main tower was reconstructed.
1972 The Tatsumi Turret was reconstructed.
1980 The Ushitora Turret was reconstructed.

Historical recognition

SiteCity designated Historic Site