Amakusa Shirō (天草 四郎, 1621? – April 12, 1638) also known as Amakusa Shirō Tokisada (天草四郎時貞) was the teenage leader of the Shimabara Rebellion.
The son of former Konishi clan retainer Masuda Jinbei (益田 甚兵衛) (according to some sources, Shirō may have been the illegitimate son of Toyotomi Hideyori), Shirō was born in modern-day Kami-Amakusa, Kumamoto in a Catholic family. The charismatic 15-year-old was known to his followers as "heaven's messenger." Miraculous powers were attributed to him.
Shiro led the defence of Hara Castle and defeated the strongest of the Shogunate attackers in a series of coordinated defensive surges. But, because the rebel force had no logistical support, their morale was seriously weakened in the following days. Shiro displayed posters in the castle in an attempt to enhance the morale of rebel force, saying "Now, those who accompany me in being besieged in this castle, will be my friends unto the next world." But a rebel soldier, Yamada Uemonsaku, betrayed Shiro and notified the Shogunate of the truth that rebel food supplies were becoming strained. The Shogunate forces performed a final assault, taking Hara Castle in the process. The Shogunate forces massacred almost 40,000 rebels, including women and children. Yamada, who previously betrayed his fellow rebels, was the only recorded survivor.
Shiro was executed in the aftermath of the fall, his head being displayed on a pike in Nagasaki for an extended period of time afterward as a warning to any other potential Christian rebels. His final words were: "I shall return after 100 years and take my revenge." Even now, many Japanese Christians consider Shiro as a saint, but the Roman Catholic Church has not officially listed him as such.
Further reading 
- Ivan Morris. The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. London: Secker and Warburg (1975)
This article incorporates text from OpenHistory.