Shimabara is a city located on the north-eastern tip of the Shimabara Peninsula, facing Ariake Bay in the east and Mount Unzen (including Fugendake) in the west, in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Shimabara is a castle town, and was the capital of Shimabara Domain during the Edo-era. It was the site of considerable foreign trade and missionary activity during the late Muromachi period, and in the early Edo-era, a large percentage of the population were Kirishitan. Due to misgovernment, high taxes and persecution of Christianity, the population rose in the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637, which was suppressed with extreme severity by the Tokugawa Bakufu. Shimabara was ruled by a branch of the Matsudaira clan from 1668-1774 and from 1774-1871.
Modern Shimabara city was founded on April 1, 1940 by the merger of former Shimabara Town with several surrounding villages.
On January 1, 2006 the town of Ariake, from Minamitakaki District, was merged into Shimabara.
Throughout its history, Shimabara has been dominated by the seismic activity of Mount Unzen. A major volcanic eruption in 1792 resulted in a tsunami which destroyed most of the town, and killed over 15,000 people in one of Japan's worst volcanic disasters. In more recent history, major eruptions in 1990-1991 resulted in pyroclastic flows, which killed 43 people and forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of others. The 5th International Conference of Cities on Volcanoes was held in Shimabara November 19–23, 2007.
Shimabara is a popular tourist destination, due to its historical associations, location in Unzen-Amakusa National Park, and numerous onsen. The most popular tourist destination within the urban area is Shimabara Castle and the nearby “Samurai Street”. The city has so much natural spring water, both hot and cold, that it runs through the streets. One picturesque spot, “Carp Street”, has colorful koi swimming in the canals.
Principal agricultural products include mandarin oranges, tea, and tobacco.