Stroll a boardwalk that winds through boiling geothermal springs known as Unzen Hell and then visit Shimabara castle, which a cruel feudal lord built in the 17th century.
Settle in for a wonderfully picturesque drive through the countryside to Unzen Hell, a natural hot springs formed by a magma reservoir at the bottom of a nearby bay. As you stroll along the boardwalk through the steaming, hissing landscape, it becomes obvious how the boiling geothermal springs acquired its name.
Unzen Hell is of geological and historical interest. Here, between 1627-1632, dozens of Christians were tortured by being thrown into the boiling waters. Matsukura Shigemasa, the first lord of Shimabara domain, ordered the execution to suppress the spread of Christianity, which had been introduced to Japan about 100 years earlier. A plaque stands at Unzen Hell to commemorate the martyrs and the Christians that later rebelled against their persecution.
Following lunch at a local restaurant, you will then visit Shimabara Castle, which Shigemasa built by raising taxes. The white-walled, five-tiered castle that stands today is a 1964 reproduction of the original, except for the stone foundation and moat.
The museum inside the castle showcases the struggles of Japan's early Christians and details the Shimabara Rebellion that followed. You may also see arms and items from the Christian uprising. After touring the imposing castle and lovely grounds dotted with cherry blossom trees, you will return to the pier.