►As Japanese church historians record it, TAKAYAMA Hikogorō (彦五郎) – (better known as Justo Takayama Ukon (高山右近) – 1552-1615) was born in 1552 in Takayama village, in Toyono-cho, Toyono-gun, Osaka Prefecture.
This is the conclusion of a Historical Commission appointed in 1963 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ), headed by Sophia University’s Fr. Hubert Cieslik, SJ (1914-1988) to study the life and times of Takayama. Fr. Cieslik specialized in early Japanese mission history.
Indeed, the grave of Ukon’s mother — Maria Takayama — wife of Takayama Tomoteru (高山友照), later known as Darius Zusho Takayama, is located here, where it is a tourist attraction to this day. Maria Takayama was the mother of three sons, the eldest being Justus (and thus heir), and three daughters. Maria had joined Ukon during his 27-year domestic exile in Kanazawa which began in 1587, but when she died in 1596, the Takayama family chose to bury her in the ancestral village of Takayama in Toyono-cho, Osaka Prefecture. (That’s an acknowledgement by the Takayama family themselves that Toyono-cho, Osaka Prefecture was their hometown.)
But two other places claim the honor:
►SECOND CLAIMANT: Sawa Castle in Haibara-cho, Nara Prefecture. In this claim, Ukon was born at Sawa fortress, stronghold held by Ukon’s father, Takayama Tomoteru (1531–1596), a samurai in the service of the Daimyo Matsunaga Hisahide (松永 久秀), 1508–1577, in Yamato Province (today in Haibara-cho, Nara Prefecture).
►THIRD CLAIMANT: Takayama Castle in Settsu Province (now in Ibaraki City), Osaka Prefecture. — (P. Luis Frois, SJ).
Father Frois (1532-1597), who was the second of eleven (11) contemporary Jesuits who reported on the life and times of Takayama Ukon while Ukon was still alive, is best remembered for writing “The First European Description of Japan,” 1585. (This was the earliest systematic comparison of Western and Japanese cultures.)
Toyono-cho is definitely the birthplace of Takayama Ukon. ◘
Dr. ERNIE A. DE PEDRO
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation