Shimabara Rebellion

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Shimabara Rebellion


a major peasant uprising in 1637–38 in Japan, on the Shimabara Peninsula (near Nagasaki) and nearby Amakusa Island.

The Shimabara Rebellion broke out in response to growing feudal oppression. Often called the “rebellion of Japanese Christians,” it had religious overtones, as did many peasant movements in the Middle Ages. However, it was distinct in one ideological sense: it was connected not with Buddhist sectarian doctrines, as had often been the case previously, but with Christianity, which had been brought to Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries by European missionaries and which was persecuted by the government.

An army of 100,000, raised by the government and local feudal lords, was sent to suppress the rebellion. The rebels took refuge in Hara castle, where approximately 38,000 of them held out for several months, notwithstanding bombardment by the ships of Dutch and Chinese merchants. After storming the castle the government army massacred the rebels, leaving only about 100 alive.


Boxer, C. R. The Christian Century in Japan (1549–1650). Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1951.
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Sick and tired of religious oppression, the peasants of Arima and Amakusa took up arms in December 1637 in what has been called the Shimabara Rebellion, led by an unlikely hero, a pious, charismatic 16-year-old named Amakusa Shiro.
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When the shogun's advisers reviewed the Shimabara Rebellion a few months later, a comparison was drawn between the efforts needed to take flimsy Hara Castle and the plans to transport a similar-sized army with similar naval support many hundreds of miles through occupied territory to take on the European fortifications of Manila.
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The issue of Japanese naval capacity would not be resolved until the twentieth century, so when the Shimabara Rebellion forced the cancellation of the 1637 Philippines expedition it marked a point in time when Japan turned its back on the notion of an overseas empire for three hundred years.
what many call the "last gasp" of Christianity's power in Japan was the Shimabara Rebellion of 1638, during which about 40,000 Christian country people in western Kyushu holed up in Hara Castle for four months, led by a 16-year-old boy named Amakusa Shiro, whom they believed to be an incarnation of God, a messiah who would deliver them from their economic and religious oppression.