Amakusa is a chain of islands off the southwest coast of Kumamoto in Japan. It is comprised of 2 main islands, Shimoshima and Ueshima, as well as numerous smaller islands.
Amakusa is located southwest of Kumamoto City and has a history of one of the places of the "hidden Christians" - the place where many Christian Japanese kept their faith after the Shogunate outlawed the religion and finally massacred tens of thousands after they rebelled. Today it is a rural area of mountains and seaside beauty.
Buses available from Kumamoto Station or Kumamoto Kotsu Center (Kumamoto Bus terminal).
There is no rail access to Amakusa. You can take a JR train on the Misumi Line to its terminus at Misumi Station. There is a car rental agency by the station.
Amakusa Airport has flights to and from Kumamoto, Fukuoka, and Osaka Itami operated by Amakusa Airlines, however there are few flights and they are expensive.
A number of ferry services are available to Amakusa, including routes from:
- Uki: There is a short ferry (20 min) between Misumi Port and Matsushima in Kamiamakusa.
- Nagasaki: from Mogi Port, Nagasaki to Reihoku Port, Reihoku Kanko Ferry, 0969-35-0705. 45 min; ¥2030 (passengers only).
- Shimabara: from Kuchinotsu Port, Shimabara to Oniike Port, Shimatetsu Ferry, 0957-86-2165 . 30 min; ¥450.
- Kagoshima: from Shoura Port on Shishi Is., Kagoshima to Nakata Port, Rosary Line, 0996-86-0775. 20 min; ¥400.
- Kagoshima: from Kuranomoto Port, Kagoshima to Ushibuka Port, Sanwa Ferry, 0969-73-2103. 30 min; ¥500. Buses connect between Kuranomoto port and Izumi Station, Kyushu Shinkansen.
Amakusa is a very rural, mountainous, and spread out city - a rental car is by far the best method to get around efficiently.
- Dolphin Watching, There are dolphin watching tours at: 10:00 / 11:30 (morning) and 13:00 / 14:30 (afternoon). A minimum of 2 people are needed and the costs are ¥3000 per person. Information is available from 9:00 AM-6:00 PM. The tour is 1 hour and you should be there 30 minutes early. Reservation needed 3 days in advance and check whether the ship is running or not. If case of bad weather, the tour might be cancelled. There is an option of dolphin watching and a seafood barbecue - ¥4000 - ¥6000 per person. Another option is dolphin watching and fishing - ¥4000; no more than 5 people. It takes about 2 hours and you can bring the catch to your accommodations. Also there is the option of dolphin watching and staying the night - ¥10000 - ¥15000.
- Amakusa Pearl Center (天草パールセンター), 6225-7 Matsushimamachi Aitsu, Kamiamakusa, ☎ 096-956-1155, . Includes the Sea Donut aquarium with dolphin shows, in addition to a restaurant and several monuments to Shirō Amakusa. edit
- Shiro Amakusa Memorial Hall (天草四郎ミュージアム), 977-1 Oyanomachinaka, Kamiamakusa, ☎ 096-456-5311, . 9AM–5PM. This museum focuses on the historical background of the Battles of Amakusa and Shimabara and the happenings of the time when it was influenced by the West. Introduced in an easy-to-understand manner using materials and videos. ¥600. edit
- Tomioka Castle Ruins (富岡城跡), 2240 Tomioka, Reihoku, . 9AM–5PM, Closed Wed. Not much remains from this former castle, but some structures have been reconstructed, and you can get some idea of what used to exist. Free. edit
- Adam Arakawa Memorial Park (アダム荒川の記念広場), ☎ 096-935-1111. This site has very little to see, but it is a monument to a Christian disciple who was tortured for three months and refused to give up his faith, and ended up getting beheaded. Free. edit
- Beaches, there are many beaches here. Shiratsuru-hama in particular has been selected as the 88th nicest beach in Japan by the Japanese government.
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 8:30 (after the dancing), it is held at Hondo Port. There is a big fireworks show 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 7:30. 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 allows visitors to join the dancing.
More information: Hondo Matsuri practice committee:
Some special products known as Touseki-Amakusa and Takahamayaki, two types of pottery.
Amakusa is beside the sea, so fresh seafood is easy to find. The Fukurenngino Komori Manju, a kind of sweet, is also made there.
The majority of places are in the Hondo area of Amakusa City.
- Kumamoto Kumamoto offers several of Kyushu's best sights, including Kumamoto Castle (currently under extensive repairs) as well as the beautiful Suizenji Garden.
- Shimabara Across the Ariake Sea on the Shimabara Pensinsula is Unzen, another of Japan's finest hot spring areas and sight of a live volcano. It offers several places with mountaintop views like the ropeway up to Mt. Myoken, as well as the Unzen Jigoku or Unzen Hell, the sight of sulphuric fumaroles. Shimabara also has some Christian history, including the sight of the Shimabara Rebellion which was the last big fight from Christians and peasants against religious persecution and taxes in 1637, and you can see a museum and remnants of Shimabara Castle.
- Nagasaki is one of the most interesting cities in Japan (and not at all due to recent history), with both Chinese and European influences that go back centuries.
- Saikai - Nagasaki Biopark is a little ways outside of the city, but it is definitely worth an afternoon. This is perhaps the world's largest and best petting zoo, where one can feed and pet animals like capybara, flamingos, kangaroos, mara and wallabies. Another place worth seeing is the Oranda-Mura or Holland Village, with several buildings looking like you just entered Amsterdam. It pales in comparison though to the other big theme park, below:
- Sasebo Nearby Sasebo has numerous other sights to see. Huis Ten Bosch is a Dutch-themed park which one can access with the Kamome train line. For those who have already toured the Netherlands, there is probably not much of a draw, but if you are interested in the uncanny Japanese ability to faithfully reproduce the works of other countries (they even imported the bricks from the Netherlands), it is worth a visit. Other sights include numerous place to see the bay, as well as the 99 Island Cruise (Kujukushima) which offers some unforgettable scenery.
- Hirado While you'll really need a rental car to explore this island at the end of Nagasaki Prefecture, those interested in Christianity in Japan will find this area loaded with more old churches and history.