A unique mix of apocalyptic landscapes, healing waters and a grand castle
Centered in the Shimabara Peninsula, Unzen is known for volcanic Mt. Unzen , seasonal foliage, and thermal hot springs. Surrounded by national park, the area offers good hiking in all seasons and a chance to visit "hell," an area of steaming, sulfurous hot springs.
- The bubbling Unzen Hells
- The extravagant Shimabara Castle and surrounding samurai district
- Sipping tea while watching the colorful carp at Shimeiso Spring Garden
How to Get There
Unzen is easily accessed by train or bus.
To get to Shimabara, take the JR train from Nagasaki to Isahaya Station, then transfer to Shimabara Station on the private Shimabara Railway (Shimatetsu). Buses run to Unzen from Shimabara.
You can also take a bus directly from Nagasaki Station to Unzen Onsen Visitor Center; the journey takes around one hour and 40 minutes.
Follow the seasons on the volcano
Whether you are interested in serious hiking or basking in the beauty of your surroundings, Unzen caters to both recreation and relaxation. Part of the sprawling Unzen-Amakusa National Park, the area's mountains and peaks are accessible via the Nita-Toge ropeway.
Journeying up the mountains via the manually driven ropeway is popular, especially during fall when the hills come alive with red and orange leaves. Azaleas turn the landscape a vibrant pink during the spring/summer season, and the region transforms into a frosty wonderland in the winter.
Hot springs and the pits of hell
To the southwest of Mt. Unzen is Unzen Onsen , a hot springs resort popular for day trips, as most of the facilities are open to the public. The area boasts more than 30 sulfuric pools from which local resorts draw thermal waters for you to soak in.
Outside the onsen village, follow the path to Unzen Hells, where acidic gases hiss and bubble up from the earth. It has a gruesome history: in the 17th century, Christians were martyred here at the hands of the local feudal lord.
A city worth its keep
Shimabara Castle offers visitors a chance to step back in time in style. Try on old samurai and ninja clothing while looking at castle artifacts and immersing yourself in history.
The quaint streets surrounding the castle are also worth exploring. From temples and shrines to restored samurai dwellings in the heart of the Teppo-machi district, Shimabara is more like a portal to the past than a modern-day holiday resort.
Also known as the “City of Swimming Carp” for its koi-filled canals, the area lying south of Shimabara Castle allows you to observe the beauty and tranquility of these multicolored, graceful fish in historic surroundings.
At Shimeiso Spring Garden, you can relax in a tea house raised on stilts and surrounded by waters through which the carp come and go. Sit and enjoy a free cup of green tea as the koi swim beneath you, their beautiful golds and whites shimmering in the sun.