island group in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan

Amakusa (天草) is a city and chain of islands off the west coast of Kumamoto in Japan.

Cities edit

  • 1 Oyano (大矢野) — largest city and gateway to the islands

Understand edit

Some places are born cursed, while others are cursed by the whims of history. It has been Amakusa’s tragedy to suffer both fates. -Spike Japan

The Amakusa Islands are a small chain of ten islands just off the coast of Kumamoto, south of the Shimabara Peninsula to the north. Swept by strong currents, fishing off the islands is poor and the thin, volcanic soil of the islands can only barely support even barley and sweet potatoes. This is where Portuguese Jesuit missionaries first landed in the 16th century and started converting the local populace to Christianity, with some success until Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned the faith on pain of death in 1614. In response to the brutal persecution that followed, the islands rose up in the Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion (島原天草の乱) of 1637-1638, eventually leading to the death and execution of over 35,000 rebels.

After the islands were depopulated by these executions, Amakusa was resettled with convicts and other undesirables from the mainland, who were forcibly moved to the islands. By 1868, Amakusa had over 150,000 people, most living in desperate property. After the isolation of Japan ended, over 30,000 women fled to work as karayuki-san prostitutes in the brothels of Asia, as harrowingly depicted in the book and movie Sandakan No. 8.

Today's Amakusa suffers from precisely the opposite problem: it is Japan's most rapidly depopulating region, with Amakusa losing over 10% of its population every decade since the 1960s. Few tourists, domestic or foreign, make it to the islands, but those who do find many traces of its history and some of the finest Christian sites in Japan, including Sakitsu Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Get in edit

Map of Amakusa

By plane edit

1 Amakusa Airfield   (AXJ IATA), served exclusively by Amakusa Airlines, has daily service to Fukuoka (¥13,700-¥15,000 one-way) and Kumamoto (¥8200-¥9600 one-way. The airline's entire fleet consists of one ATR 42 turboprop, so if the plane has any technical difficulties, all flights will be cancelled.

By train edit

There is no train service on the islands themselves, but 2 Misumi Station   (三角駅), terminus of the eponymous Misumi Line from Kumamoto, is right across the bridge from Oyano Island.

By ferry edit

Shimabara Railway operates hourly ferries between Kuchinotsu (口之津) at the southern tip of the Shimabara Peninsula to Oniike (鬼池) on northern Shimoshima. The trip takes about 30 minutes.

By car edit

Built in 1966, the Five Bridges of Amakusa (天草五橋 Amakusa Gokyō) connect the islands to each other and the mainland at Uto.

Get around edit

See edit

  • 1 Sakitsu Church   A small village on Amakusa's eastern side that once became the islands' center of Christianity. During the ban on Christianity many Christians were forced to practice their faith with household objects like seashells rather than standard devotion items. The village's main church was built in a Gothic style and fuses Japanese and European design. The church's interior features tatami mats and high steeples jut from the church's roof. Visits must be reserved beforehand at the church's website.
  • Kabuto-Ume (兜梅) It's a beautiful ume blossom but doesn't bear fruit. The reason is guessed as a curse of a woman. In the Middle Ages, she was a wife of a samurai and fought bravely against enemies in full armor. However, her helmet (兜 in Japanese) was caught in the ume tree and she was killed because of it. So, she had a grudge against the tree and said, "I never let it bear fruit!"

Do edit

  • Beach, there are many beaches here. Shiratsuru-hama in particular has been selected as the 88th nicest beach in Japan by the Japanese government.
  • Hondo bathing beach It's next to Amakusa Dolphin World. The sea is running calmly and there's good place for family.
  • Dolphin Watching, there is a dolphin watching tour. The scheduled times are: 10:00, 11:30, 13:00 and 14:30. A minimum of two people are needed. If there are only two people, the costs are ¥3000 per person. Information is available from 09:00-18:00. The tour takes about 1 hour, although, you should arrive there 30 minutes early. Call if you're late, please. The basic fare for adults (over 13 years old) ¥2500, child (under 13) ¥1500, kids (under 4 years old) ¥1000. If you join as a group of more than 15 people, you get a group discount. Reservation: you must make a reservation 3 days in advance and check whether the ship works or not. If case of bad weather, the tour might be cancelled. The cancellation charge is 0% until 5PM the day before, 50% on the day. There is an option of dolphin watching and a sea barbecue - ¥4000 - ¥6000 per person (you can eat special seafood, Urchin-Don, and freshly prepared boiled abalone and lobster). Another option is dolphin watching and fishing - ¥4000; no more than 5 people. It takes about 2 hours and you can bring them your house. Also there is the option of dolphin watching and staying the night - ¥10000-15000. You can choose a tourist home or a Japanese inn.

Their festival, Amakusa Hondo Summer festival, is held from July 31 to August 7.

  • Amakusako Haiya (July 31)
    The festival kicks off with a kids dance that starts in the evening near Hondo Citizen Center.
  • The Fireworks (July 31)
    Starting at 20:30 (after the dancing), it is held at Hondo port. There is a big fireworks which marks 1.5 Japanese foot so you must move around to get a big impact. They also have a beer garden.
  • The eve of Amakusa Haiya (August 6, held in the evening)
    Locals dance in the Hondo Suwa temple to celebrate this festival. After that, the main group dances on the arcade to entertain the audience.
  • The general dance of Amakusa Haiya on the street. (August 7. Starts at 19:30. Held between the front of the city hall of Hondo and Amakusa Shinyou Kinko.)
    This is the biggest event in the festival. About 3500 people dance in colorful clothes, and even allow visitors to join the dancing!

More information: Hondo Matsuri practice committee:
Hondo shoukoukaigisho

Buy edit

Amakusa is famed for type of pottery clay called Amakusa-toseki (天草陶石), used for producing white porcelain like the local Takahamayaki' (高浜焼).

Eat edit

Amakusa is beside the sea, so fresh seafood is easy to find.

Drink edit

Sleep edit

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