Shimabara Rebellion

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Not to be confused with the 1632 Siege of Shimabara.
  • Dates: 1637/10/25-1638/2/28
  • Japanese: 島原の乱 (Shimabara no ran)

The Shimabara Rebellion was a peasant uprising which took place in and around Shimabara castle in Hizen province (Nagasaki prefecture) in 1637-1638. Led by Christian converts Amakusa Shirô and Yamada Emosaku, the rebellion is often cited as a major final straw, showing the Tokugawa shogunate the potential threat Christianity posed to unity and stability of the realm, and thus inspiring the shogunate's expulsion of all Europeans the following year,[1] expansion of the policies of maritime restrictions, and strengthened enforcement of bans on Christianity. The Shimabara Rebellion, in which tens of thousands of rebels held out for several months against an army of roughly 100,000, was the last major armed conflict in Edo period Japan until the Bakumatsu period more than 200 years later.

The rebellion is said to have been sparked in part by the "cruel" policies of the local daimyô Terazawa Katataka and persecution of Christians by Matsukura Katsuie. Some 20,000 families holed up in Shimabara castle, and were only finally defeated with the aid of a Dutch East India Company ship, the Rijp,[2] which fired upon the castle from offshore, and as a result of Yamada betraying the rebels to instead inform to the Tokugawa forces; in the end, his life was spared as a result of this loyalty. Most of the prominent Kyushu daimyô families contributed to the suppression of the rebellion, along with many others, including Tachibana Muneshige, Mizuno Katsushige, Kuroda Tadayuki, Yamazaki Ieuji, Arima Toyouji, Nabeshima Katsushige, Miyamoto Musashi, and Ômura Suminobu. Fukuoka, Karatsu, and Satsuma domains together supplied around 700 ships to the effort to suppress the rebellion; Fukuoka han alone lost some 2000 soldiers.[3]

In the end, nearly all of the rebels, perhaps as many as 37,000, were killed.


  • Warren Cohen, East Asia at the Center, Columbia University Press (2000), 199.
  1. Including those of mixed-race and their Japanese guardians, but excepting employees of the Dutch East India Company, who were then restricted to Hirado.
  2. Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun, Columbia University Press (2014), 95.
  3. Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 214.