Amakusa (天草), which means "Heaven's Grass," is a series of islands off the west coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. The largest island of the Amakusa group is Shimoshima, which is 26.5 miles long and 13.5 miles in extreme width (42.6 km × 21.7 km). It is situated at 32°20'N, 130°E, separated from the rest of Kumamoto Prefecture by the Yatsushiro Sea.
It has no high mountains, but its surface is very hilly—four of the peaks rise to a height of over 1,500 feet (460 m). The population resorts to the terrace system of cultivation to cope with the lack of flat arable land.
Amakusa, along with the neighboring Shimabara Peninsula, became the site of a Christian rebellion in the 17th century. Following the rebellion, those Christians who survived continued to practice their faith in secret, despite persecution.
Amakusa produces a little coal and pottery stone, both being used by the potters of Hirado and Satsuma Province. Many kilns remain on the islands today, and pottery and pottery stone are still exported. Hidenoshin Koyama, who built Thomas Blake Glover's House in Glover Garden, came from this island.
There are also ferries between the islands and the neighboring prefectures of Kagoshima Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture. The ferry from Oniike on the north Shimoshima to Kuchinotsu, at the southern tip of the Shimabara Peninsula, is run by the Shimabara Railway and operates hourly each day. The ferry boat from Tomioka Port in Reihoku, sailing north to Mogi in Nagasaki Prefecture, is operated by Yasuda Sangyo Kisen Co. Ltd. Two ferries from Shinwa and Ushibuka, in the south of Shimoshima, connect Amakusa to Nagashima in Kagoshima Prefecture.
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