Japanese Bishops Are Shipping to Manila a ‘New’ Image of Blessed Takayama. Does This Evoke an Image of the ‘Samurai of Christ’?

Takayama Ukon, by Italian artist Nicolao Arrighini
The ‘Samurai of Christ,’ Justo Takayama Ukon, by Italian artist Nicolao Arrighini

►The gift is a 125cm-tall (‘altar-size’) bronze copy of the marble statue (see photo e-mailed by Fr. Fuyuki Albert Hirabayashi, SJ, Secretary of the CBCJ Committee for Promoting Canonization) made by the Italian artist Nicolao Arrighini (1905-1977), which stands in front of the Catholic Church of Takatsuki, Lord Takayama’s feudal domain for over 13 years. On the pedestal the words of St. Paul were inscribed: “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The statue was presented by Father Peter Schweiger, Superior General of the Claretian Missionaries (1949-1967) on Feb. 3, 1965, on the 350th death anniversary of Lord Takayama Ukon (1552-1615). The Claretians, who arrived in Japan on Oct. 29, 1951, had been given charge of the parishes of Takatsuki, Kori, Hirakata and Kadoma.

Since 1977, Filipinos have had ONLY ONE image of Lord Justo Takayama Ukon (1552-1615) — that is ♦ the Takayama statue by Johannes Masaaki Nishimori at Plaza Dilao – as a Japanese warrior, daimyo, and dedicated protector of Christian missionaries. As explained by Fr. Hubert Cieslik, SJ, lead historian of the Takayama historical studies, Lord Takayama’s hand, “horizontal over the sword, is a symbol of peace and justice,” at the same time, “the sword, forming a part of the long-beam of the Cross, is a symbol of a Christian samurai.” ♦ A second Takayama statue, sculpted by Arts & Letters students of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) was copied from the Takayama statue at Plaza Dilao. This statue now stands at the entrance of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC).

Four Takayama Statues by Nishimori – One in Manila; Three in Japan

In all, there are four iterations of this bronze statue – cast from the same mold made by Nishimori: The iconic Takayama statue that stands at ►Plaza Dilao, Paco, Manila (1977); ►Takatsuki City (Osaka Prefecture) at the Shiroato Historical Park; ►Takaoka (Toyama Prefecture) at Kojyo Park, and ►Takamatsu (Kagawa Perfecture) at the entrance of the Shodoshima Sonosho Catholic Church of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus.

When at last, Takayama was beatified on Feb. 8, 2017, this was – for Filipino Catholics — the image of this heroic samurai-martyr – the “Samurai of Christ.”

There are over a hundred images of Takayama Ukon. You can Google.com/Images or Bing.com/Images or Pinterest for dozens of images, and select one to your liking – as samurai general, as ronin, as prayerful knight, as charging horseman, as Japanese poet, as teamaster, as martyr.

But the most indelible was that by Nishimori that is the centerpiece of the Philippine-Japanese Friendship Park (1977) at Plaza Dilao – which we have grown up with in the past four decades.

The Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon Canonization Movement has commissioned the celebrated Paete woodcarver Paloy Cagayat, whose woodcarving of St. Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672) is enshrined at the Vatican, to replicate in wood the Takayama statue at Plaza Dilao.

This image of Blessed Takayama as a warrior-martyr will be more readily recognizable – by Filipino devotees who wish to pray for his intercession. ◘

Dr. Ernie A. de Pedro
Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

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