The Takayama Name — Across His Career


►Justus Ukon TAKAYAMA is the standard Western way of writing the name of a Japanese Christian: Christian name, FIRST; Japanese given name, SECOND; and surname, LAST. Examples: Paul Yoshigoro TAGUCHI. Or Paul Yoshinao OTSUKA. Or Gracia Tama HOSOKAWA.

But other Japanese Catholics prefer their Christian name in the middle. Thus: Toru Albert NISHIMOTO. Or Iwao Daniel IKEGAMI.

A third style is preferred by the Church of Japan for Ukon: Justus TAKAYAMA Ukon. Takayama’s Christian name is Justus (Variants: Justin, Justy, Justino, Justiniano) — after the early Christian saint, St. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD).

It is Justus / Iustus in Latin; Justo in Spanish and Portuguese, and Giusto in Italian. In full: Justus TAKAYAMA Ukon.

Standard Japanese Usage: Surname First

In Japanese standard usage, it is TAKAYAMA Ukon – (高山 右近) – surname, FIRST.

“Ukon” was derived from the Heian era’s “Ukonoefu” (Lieutenant of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards), which was among many obscure (and empty) court titles that was a fad among the samurai of that period. It was an honorific title that became an endearing first name — much like Filipino nickname “Erap” (for Pare). The use of ‘Ukon’ is akin to the Filipino endearment for beloved bosses: “Amo-Boss-Chief!” (In today’s lingo, simply “Bossing.”)

Other Earlier Names

In various stages of his life, Takayama used other names, as is the standard Japanese practice.

Wood-cut of the Takayama scion at 12, when he was baptized “Justo Takayama”

His childhood name was TAKAYAMA Hikogorō (彦五郎) – in missionary accounts, Hicogorodono. After his coming-of-age ceremony – (in Japan, age 20 marks a person’s transition from being a child to being an adult) – Takayama was given the adult name TAKAYAMA Shigetomo (重友).

Justo Ukon Takayama — as castle-lord of Takatsuki

When Justus became Lord of Takatsuki (in Settsu province) in 1573 (at age 21), he obtained the name TAKAYAMA Nagafusa – (“Naga” was a nod to the ruling hegemon Oda Nobunaga.) Because he affected the name Ukon, this became ‘TAKAYAMA Ukon-no-Tayû Nagafusa.’ As he was a Christian, it was now ‘Justus TAKAYAMA Ukon-no-Tayû Nagafusa.’ In short: ‘Justus TAKAYAMA Ukon.’

Daimyo Justo Ukon Takayama — at the head of his army whose tunics bore a large Cross

He signed ordinances as Daimyo of Takatsuki as ‘Takayama Ukon-no-suke Jusu’ — (at another time, Jushutsu). “Jusu” and “Jushutsu are both Ukon’s own rendering of “Justus.”

When Lord Takayama refused to abjure his Christian religion, the Regent Hideyoshi (who was wary of any fealty to a foreign God) stripped him of his feudal domain in Akashi.

Another official name Lord Takayama used: ‘Takayama Ukon-no-tayû Yûshô Nyûdô Nambô.’ Signature in another document: ‘Takayama Ukon Nyudô Nambô.’ Short reference: ‘Takayama Nambô.’

Recognized as one of the ‘Top Seven’ teamasters in Japanese history, Takayama chose another name for that artistic aspect of his life –‘ Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami.’

As a tea-master, Takayama gained renown as ‘Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami.’

He was a prized pupil of Sen no Rikyū (d. 1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on the development of Chanoyu. Ukon, one of the celebrated Rikyushichitetsu (Rikyu’s Seven), was credited with refining the tea ceremony into a serene celebration, with ritual movements “almost like a Mass.” The spirit of the art of tea – characterized by the qualities of harmony, reverence, purity, and tranquility — found in Ukon its Christian transfiguration.

Papal Breve to Justo Ucondono

Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-1590) on April 24, 1590, the Supreme Pontiff addresses him as “Justo Ucondono.”

In the “Papal Breve” signed by Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-1590) on April 24, 1590, the Supreme Pontiff addresses him as “Justo Ucondono.”

In all Jesuit accounts, Takayama was simply known as “Justo Ucon-dono” – which was his name in Manila. (“Lord Takayama” was never used in Manila.)

Thus, Takayama is “Justo Ucondono” in Blair & Robertson (Vol. 28, p. 35).  This is the 55-vol. work of Emma Helen Blair, James Alexander Robertson, Edward Gaylord Bourne, “The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898: explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the Catholic missions…”  (A.H. Clark Company, 1903).

This is the image used in ‘estampitas’ — or prayer cards’ — distributed at the San Vicente de Paul Church at San Marcelino St., Ermita for a Takayama Memorial Mass on Sept. 20, 1942  by Japan’s ‘The Catholic Unit’ in World War II.#


Mosaic at the vestibule of the Jesuit Church at Manresa, Spain — showing Ukon as one of six Catholic noblemen who underwent the Ignatian “Spiritual Exercises”

‘Dom Justo Ukondono’ was sometimes spelled Ucan-dono – as engraved in the Jesuit-commissioned Manresa Mosaic at the Church of Ignatius of Loyola at the Santa Cueva in Manresa, Spain. (The image used in the 1942 ‘estampita’ was derived from this Manresa mosaic.)

In the first printed biography of Takayama —  Morejon, Pedro, 1562-1634?, “Breve relacion de la persecucion que huvo estos años contra iglesia de Japon” (Written in Spanish, and printed first at Mexico in the West Indies, the yeare of Christ M.DC.XVI – just one year after the death of Don Justo in Manila)Padre Morejon, SJ, father-confessor of Don Justo who accompanied him to Manila, identified Lord Takayama as  “Justo Tacayama [sic] Minaminobo.”

morejon open book xx

In a book on Japanese martyrs published in Rome in 1646 – “Fasciculus e Japonicis Floribus…” – (the earliest book that contains a depiction of Takayama), he was identified as “Dominus Iustus Vcondono Iappon” (Lord Justus Ukondono [of] Japan).

In adopting ‘Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon,’ it is bothersome to footnote to Filipino devotees that Ukon is not his last name: It is Takayama.

As there are no other celebrated Takayama figures in history, ‘Lord Takayama’ immediately evokes him. Thus ‘Blessed Takayama’ should be sufficient to identify him.

Stained-glass window at Shodoshima Island.

In light of Pope Francis ‘Decree of Martyrdom’ (Jan. 21, 2016) proclaiming Takayama as a “Japanese layman martyred in Manila” (making Manila a necessary identifier — to denote that, alone among Japan’s 436 venerated martyrs, he was ‘martyred’ outside Japan) — it makes sense to follow the Papal narrative by referring to him as “Blessed Takayama of Manila.”◘

St. Justin Martyr
As Ukon Takayama was christened in June 1563 with the baptismal name “Justo” after St. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165), it may be presumed that Ukon was baptized on June 1, 1563 — feast day of St. Justin.

Dr. Ernesto A. De Pedro
Takayama Trustee

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