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photo of Unzen-Amakusa National Park


The Terraqueous Panorama, Composed of the Steaming Mt. Unzen and Archipelagic Amakusa
Date of Designation: March 16, 1934
Area: 28,279 ha (land area)
Related Prefecture: Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima
This park was established in 1934 as one of Japan's first national parks (Unzen National Park), and later in 1956, the Amakusa area was added to become Unzen-Amakusa National Park. The highlight of this park is its terraqueous panorama composed of volcanic landscape of the steaming Mt. Unzen and archipelagic seascape of Amakusa.
The Unzen area is a mountainous area of the Shimabara Peninsula centered on Mt. Unzen, consisting of over 20 mountains, and it affords various panoramic views along with the seascape on three sides. Visitors can experience volcanic activity throughout the area including Jigoku Onsen (hell hot spring), the origin of the name Mt.“Unzen.” The Amakusa area is an archipelago with 120 islands and is a place to savor a varied coastline with indentations unique to a submergent coast, land-tied islands and sea cliffs, as well as corals in the sea.
Both Unzen and Amakusa areas are rich in historical sites resulted from the earliest arrival of foreign cultures in Japan, including the history of Christianity known as the Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion. In recent years, both areas are approved as geoparks, where visitors enjoy learning geological origin and blessing of the areas, named Unzen Volcanic Area Geopark and Amakusa Geopark, respectively with the national park zone as its core.

Terrain/ Scenery

photo of Ariake Sea and Amakusa Islands Viewed from Mt. Unzen

Ariake Sea and Amakusa Islands Viewed from Mt. Unzen

Surrounded by the waters on three sides, the mountain trails and roadways on Mt. Unzen afford a panoramas of magnificent views.
photo of The Silhouette of Mt. Unzen Viewed from the Ariake Sea

The Silhouette of Mt. Unzen Viewed from the Ariake Sea

Additionally, its elegant curved silhouette captures the hearts and minds of those who gaze upon it.
photo of Archipelagic Seascape of Amakusa Matsushima

Archipelagic Seascape of Amakusa Matsushima

In the archipelagic Amakusa area, its calm sea and rough cliffs are contrastive, and the eastside area of Kami-shima Island is referred to as "Kankai (ocean view) Alps" for its sharp ridgelines rising from the sea.
photo of Kankai Alps

Kankai Alps

photo of Shimabara Peninsula with Rising Mt. Unzen (front) and the Amakusa Islands (back)

Shimabara Peninsula with Rising Mt. Unzen (front) and the Amakusa Islands (back)

With Mt. Unzen in its center, Shimabara Peninsula used to be a volcanic island about 400,000 years ago. Approximately 4.3 million years ago, a volcanic island was formed by the eruption of a submarine volcano near Hayasaki, located at the south end of the peninsula and proximate to Amakusa. Subsequently, similar to the Nishino-shima Island of the Ogasawara Islands, the island grew larger by repeated eruptions. Also, about 500,000 years ago, Mt. Unzen (Unzen Volcano) was formed and its eruptive activity began. The eruption products traveled down to connect with mainland Kyushu, forming a peninsula about 400,000 years ago.
Subsequently, an east-west fault separating the Shimabara Peninsula into three areas north and south (Chijiwa Fault) was formed, and although the central part had a structure to allow continuous subsidence as compared to the northern and southern parts (Unzen Graben), the subsequent eruptions concentrated inside the graben. Obama Onsen, Unzen Onsen (Jigoku) and Shimabara Onsen, running east-west, were all formed as a result of volcanic activity in the graben.
photo of Myoken Caldera Resulted from Collapse

Myoken Caldera Resulted from Collapse

While repeating the patterns of eruptions, highly viscous magma spewed forth to create a roundly raised lava dome, and when it could not stand under its own weight, it eventually collapsed as a result of earthquake, etc. finally forming precipitous and magnificent Mt. Unzen .
photo of Tsukumo-jima Islands resulted from the collapse of the Mt. Mayu-yama

Tsukumo-jima Islands resulted from the collapse of the Mt. Mayu-yama

Since recorded history, at least three volcanic activities occurred in the area. The eruption of Mt. Fugen that occurred during the Edo era caused the collapse of the Mt. Mayu-yama dome with the loss of 15,000 lives. However, this brought in an abundance of spring water along with excellent fishing grounds and harbors. Although the Heisei eruption of Mt. Fugen that occurred between 1990 and 1995 caused a great deal of damage from pyroclastic flows and debris flows, this eruption created the new highest peak, Mt. Heisei-shinzan (1483 m).
logo of Shimabara Peninsula Geopark
In 2009, the Shimabara Peninsula was approved as the Global Geopark for being a park where visitors can enjoy learning about both sides of the volcanic disaster and subsequent blessings of nature.
The Amakusa area, on the other hand, is considered to have been formed when the geographical stratum that accumulated between about 100 million years ago (Mesozoic Cretaceous period) and about 47 million years ago (Cenozoic Paleogene period) was elevated from the ocean bed. The islands around Goshoura are sites where fossil remains of marine clams and dinosaurs have been discovered, are called dinosaur islands or fossil islands, and in 2009, it was approved as a Japanese Geopark. Also in 2014, the Geopark area was expanded to include the entire Amakusa area in Kumamoto Prefecture to be approved as the Amakusa Geopark.


The Unzen area has three vegetation zones: a deciduous broadleaf forest zone (westernmost distribution in Japan) at an elevation of 950 meters and more an evergreen broadleaf forest zone at an elevation of 600 meters and below, and a mixed forest zone at an elevation of 600 meters to 950 meters. The stretch of Mt. Fugen, (1000 meter class), is a famous place to savor the changing colors of autumn leaves, which is designated as a national natural monument, namely the autumn-colored forest around Mt. Fugen.
Also, Mt. Heisei-shinzan, which was born as a result of the Heisei eruption of Mt. Fugen and remains a sparsely vegetated zone, is also designated as a national natural monument.
Unzen Jigoku, where visitors can behold volcanic gas spewing out from underground, is a site to observe the vegetation distributed distantly in sequence from forked fimbry, Japanese silver grass, white form of drooping red enkianthus, and Japanese red pine, growing from a pouring basin with hot spring algae that is heated by volcanic gas containing hydrogen sulfide.
photo of Autumn-colored Forest around Mt.Fugen

Autumn-colored Forest around Mt. Fugen

photo of Mt. Heisei-shinzan

Mt. Heisei-shinzan

photo of Unzen Jigoku

Unzen Jigoku

photo of hite Form of Drooping Red Enkianthus

White Form of Drooping Red Enkianthus

Additionally, around the Gensei moor, which is regarded to have been made as a result of a weakened previous fumarole activity in Jigoku, there are sphagnum-covered wetlands, making it a suitable habitat for the Japanese iris and Japanese azalea.
photo of Gensei Moor

Gensei Moor

The representative flowers that extensively adorn Mt. Unzen are the Kyushu Azalea that colors the mountain in pink in May and the Japanese flowering dogwood that colors the mountain in white in June.
Kyushu Azalea is an azalea species endemic to volcanoes in Kyushu. Because it is poisonous and cannot be eaten by cows and horses, visitors can observe splendid azalea flowers growing in clusters around the former pasturelands (Ikenohara, Nita Pass and Houbaru) and the pastureland in Tashirobaru.
photo of Colonies of Kyushu Azalea along the Nita Pass

Colonies of Kyushu Azalea along the Nita Pass

photo of Colonies of Japanese flowering dogwood on the north face of Mt. Unzen

Colonies of Japanese Flowering Dogwood on the North Face of Mt. Unzen

photo of Grassland and Colonies of Kyushu Azalea in Tashirobaru

Grassland and Colonies of Kyushu Azalea in Tashirobaru

photo of A black Cow

A Black Cow

Both areas of Unzen and Amakusa abound with such agricultural landscapes, and terraced rice fields and farmlands add beautiful components to the terraqueous panoramas.
photo of Terraced rice-fields in Minami-Shimabara

Terraced Rice-fields in Minami-Shimabara

photo of Terraced-farmland in Naga-shima Island

Terraced-farmland in Naga-shima Island

The land area of Amakusa area is characterized by coastal plants including grand crinum lily and the rare Myoporum bontioides, and there are also spawning grounds of the loggerhead turtle.
photo of Local Specialty, Potatoes

Local Specialty, Potatoes

photo of Grand Crinum Lily

Grand Crinum Lily


This area is abundant in wild birds, and many summer birds such as blue-and-white flycatchers, narcissus flycatchers and little cuckoos migrate to this area, and their singing echo throughout the mountains. In winter, many duck species migrate to the Suwano-ike Pond.
There are also spawning grounds of loggerhead turtles.
photo of Blue-and-white Flycatcher

Blue-and-white Flycatcher

The underwater is populated with brightly colored corals, thanks to the warm Tsushima current, where schools of subtropical fishes of various colors swim.
Shimo-shima Island is situated directly over the migratory route for wild birds, which is the westernmost one in Japan, and the area around Mt. Rokuroji is a good viewing spot to observe the migration of Accipiter soloensis, hooded crane, and the white-necked crane.
photo of Sapphire Devil and Blacksaddle Goatfish

Sapphire Devil and Blacksaddle Goatfish


photo of Misogoro
In fact, on all sides of the Shimabara Peninsula and the northern shore of the Amakusa across the ocean, there is a legend of a giant named Misogoro. It is a folk story that a giant man who had a good stomach for miso formed the topography while giving a hand to farmers and fishermen. However, it is considered that the Japanese words Mizou (unprecedented) /Musou (incomparable) plus Goryo (spiritual existence), became Miso-/Musou-Goro, which we can be inferred as the spirit with unprecedented/incomparable power that is the incarnation of Mt. Unzen.
This legend tells us that the help offered by Misogoro indeed represents various blessings of nature that are the result of the eruptions of Mt. Unzen.
photo of Mammyo-ji Temple

Mammyo-ji Temple

Since ancient times, various foreign cultures have arrived and bloomed in the Shimabara/Amakusa area, the earliest in Japan, and that resulted from its location where the west side faces the open East China Sea and the east side faces the Ariake sea, the waterway to a wide-ranging area of Kyushu.
The Shimabara Peninsula is known as one of the earliest areas in Japan where rice cultivation was introduced from the continent during the late Jomon period and is pockmarked with related ruins. Also, while the Buddhism was originally introduced to Japan from the continent, a renowned Buddhist priest, Gyoki, founded the Mammyo-ji Temple on Mt. Unzen in 701, which is celebrated as three dominant temple mountains of Japan along with Mt. Hiei and Mt. Koya where temples were founded later.
photo of Hara Castle Ruins (Hara Castle Rebellion Festival)

Hara Castle Ruins (Hara Castle Rebellion Festival)

In the Middle Ages, Christianity was brought to both areas from Europe, bringing prosperity to the areas as a base of missionary work and Japanese trade with Spain and Portugal. Once the persecution of Christian communities began, the Unzen Jigoku became the place to torture the Christians, and in 1637, the Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion broke out and many inhabitants barricaded themselves in Hara Castle. (It was suppressed by the army of the Edo Shogunate the following year.)
photo of Shimabara Somen

Shimabara Somen

On the other hand, Shimabara somen noodles, which are a local specialty made with the river-bed water from Mt. Unzen and the sea salt from the Ariake Sea, are pointed out the possibility of being directly introduced from the continent of China during the Middle Ages.
photo of Unzen Onsen Town

Unzen Onsen Town

Since the Meiji era, coupled with the opening of the Shanghai sea route connecting Shanghai and Nagasaki, Unzen was visited by many Europeans working on the continent of China as an escape from summer heat, making the Unzen Onsen Town Japan's first resort destination for international travelers to proactively accept the foreign culture.