Curving south from the heartland of Nagasaki Prefecture, the Shimabara Peninsula is known for its scalding hot springs, rich agricultural terrain and abundant seafood in the surrounding waters. It also conceals a sad and complex history of Christianity, persecution and a futile, bloody rebellion.

And, above it all, there is Mount Unzen. Rising to a height of almost 1,500 meters, this still-active volcano forms the fulcrum of the peninsula. Its violent activity formed the contours of this land, along with the rich, dark soil in which local farmers grow their crops.

On many occasions, Unzen has rained calamity on the communities below. Its last major eruption began in 1990, lasted five years and left 44 people dead or missing. Two centuries earlier, it triggered a massive tsunami that killed close to 15,000 in what remains Japan’s worst volcanic disaster.