Did Lord Takayama Surrender His Samurai Sword to the Franciscans in Manila?

►It’s another Takayama factoid we are chasing.

A samurai carries an assortment of weapons, but basically the sword.#

►LORD JUSTO UKON TAKAYAMA (1552-1615) – known in Manila as ‘Don Justo Ukondono’ — had a reputation of being one of the ablest generals of the Sengoku Period (戦国時代). He was once the commanding general of ‘Kampaku’ Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s vanguard. Of him, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), who would become the first Tokugawa Shogun in 1603, said: “In Ukon’s hands 1,000 soldiers would be worth more than 10,000 in the hands of whosoever else.”

This illustration — a book cover — shows Lord Ukon Takayama before the Takatsuki Castle which he acquired at age 21.

After Takayama was stripped of his second feudal domain at Akashi in 1587, he became a ‘ronin‘ — a masterless samurai. He sought protection from other another Christian daimyo, who was too important and too useful for Hideyoshi to harm. But within the year, Ukon found a place (with the tacit ‘approval’ of Hideyoshi) in Kanazawa – which was the domain of the Maeda, who controlled Etchū, Kaga, and Noto provinces. Here, he served as guest-general (‘Kyakusho’) of the Maeda military – while maintaining openly a Christian community (with an occasional Jesuit priest) in Noto Peninsula with some 600 Christian ‘ronin’ who had all lost their ‘samurai-status’ because of their Christianity.

This illustration, of unknown provenance, was labelled ‘Takayama Ukon — as  Ronin’

IN MANILA where Lord Takayama was welcomed as “the epitome of the Japanese spirit,” Spanish Governor-General Juan de Silva (r. 1609 – 1616) visited him “almost everyday” to pump him for information about the military infrastructure of Japan.

Dedicated Christian — But True-Blue Japanese Too

But Lord Takayama, though he and his family had been exiled by Tokugawa Japan for his Christianity, was a true-blue Japanese patriot, who scoffed at the hare-brained plan of Silva (supported by two or three militant Jesuits) – to invade Japan with a Spanish expeditionary force to assist the beleaguered Christians in southern Japan – on the conceit that one armed Spaniard was equivalent to 15 fighting Japanese. Silva was also counting on the support of the Christian daimyos of the South — who would presumably fight on Spain’s side — against the Tokugawa Shogunate. Ha?

Lord Takayama tried to disabuse Silva about the feasibility of such a military plan. He pointed out that in his first feudal domain, Takatsuki which, though smallish, strategically straddled the only highway between the power centers of Kyoto and Osaka, he had a standing army of professional warriors who trained daily and were warriors year-round – unlike the farmer-soldiers of Europe who were called to arms only in case of war. In his own bailiwick, Takayama could call to arms some 20,000 men – armed with swords, spears, archers, arquebuses, hand-thrown explosives and wheeled cannons.

Each Daimyo — (There Were More Than 200) — Had a Larger Standing Army, Year-Round, Than Spanish Manila

When Takayama was transferred to Akashi (明石市), in Hyōgo Prefecture, he had an income of 60,000 ‘koku’ – meaning he could theoretically support an army of 60,000 men.

And there were 200 daimyos throughout Japan, which – though not yet united as one nation – could cohese to fight a foreign invader – just as they fought off two attempted Mongol invasions of Japan (元寇 Genkō), which were launched in 1274 and 1281 by Kublai Khan, the Mongol leader of China’s Yuan Dynasty. The entire nation was mobilized – including the dregs of society like the despised ‘wako’ who were dreaded pirates of the high seas menacing the coasts of China and the Philippines. The ‘wako’ — (Think Yakuza!) — transformed themselves into a formidable navy of their own — this time, in the service of Japan.

Two Mongol Invasion Attempts ‘Unify’ Japan, Convince the Nation It Cannot Be Invaded by Foreign Forces

Between two Mongol attempts (1274, 1281) – there was an interval of seven years, during which time, Japan’s self-defense forces camped at Kyushu’s Hakata Bay (near present-day Fukuoka, Japan) – and were housed and fed for seven years – while waiting for the expected second Mongol invasion.

(To students of Philippine history: Could a Filipino military force of 70,000 be stationed at the mouth of Manila Bay – for seven years – without dying of boredom or breaking up into intramural fights among themselves?)

While Lord Takayama was enroute to the Philippines, the Winter Campaign (Nov. 8, 1614-Jan. 22, 1615) of the Siege of Osaka was fought between the Toyotomi Clan and the Tokugawa Shogunate. Hideyori sent emissaries to Ukon Takayama offering command of Hideyori’s forces — which he declined.

UNKNOWN TO Governor-General Silva, as he was plotting in 1614-15 his military calculations for Manila — not Spain — to “invade Japan” — completely clueless about the epic scale and protracted duration of Japanese warfare — era-changing events were unfolding in Osaka as Toyotomi Hideyori (豊臣 秀頼), 22-year-old son and designated successor of the ‘Taiko’ Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), prepared to do battle with the Tokugawa who had established a Shogunate in 1603. Their first inconclusive clash (Nov. 8, 1614-Jan. 22, 1615) ended in a truce. [Notice that the battle began on the same day that Ukon’s exile boat departed for Manila.]

Ukon Is Offered Command of Hideyori’s Besieged Forces

Hideyori had sent emissaries to Nagasaki to offer Ukon the command of Toyotomi forces in the final battle between Hideyori and the Tokugawa. But his emissaries missed Ukon by three days, as the Chinese junk had sailed for Manila on Nov. 8, 1614. The emissaries followed Ukon to Manila and met Ukon at the Inner Court of the San Agustin Convent. (The garden, not damaged during World War II, is still there today).

Here was a chance for Ukon to fight on home soil again. Defending a castle he was familiar with. Against an adversary who had banished him – and his family – to Manila with the cunning calculation Ukon could never return again.

But Ukon was firm: He would spend the rest of his years in the Philippines in prayer and in spreading the Word of God.

Tokugawa Shogunate Obliterates Hideyori’s 71,500-Man Army in June 1615

The Tokugawa Shogunate put a decisive ‘finis’ to the Toyotomi clan’s challenge by totally annihilating its 71,500-man army [including Gen. Thome Naito who returned from exile in Manila, and the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Mushashi] at the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka – May 26-June 3, 1615 – including Hideyori himself and his wife, Senhime, a granddaughter of Ieyasu.

Dedicated to Prayer and Evangelization

LORD JUSTO TAKAYAMA was clear: he would not return to Japan at the head of a Spanish invading force. He would dedicate the rest of his life to prayer and evangelization. As he spoke only Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, his mission field in Manila was limited to some 3,000 Japanese non-Christian settlers in the Paco area. Which is what he proceeded to undertake.

Accompanied by his five grandsons, and ‘shadowed’ by his volunteer bodyguards – the three Christian ‘ronin’ Hayakawa Uhyoe; Shibayama Gombei, and Ukita Kyukan who had been in Ukon’s Catholic community in Noto Peninsula – Don Justo made a number of converts in the Franciscan parish of Paco, and brought them to baptism at the Paco Catholic Church (today, San Fernando de Dilao Parish Church) – with his grandsons standing as baptismal sponsors.

Surrendering ‘Samurai Sword’ to Franciscans?

To signal his firm resolve to live out his days in prayer, Takayama surrendered his trusty samurai sword – not to the militant Jesuits, many of whom were ex-military, like their founder, St. Ignatius de Loyola (1491-1556) – but to the peace-loving Franciscans, whose six Franciscan confreres drew the first blood of martyrdom at Nagasaki in the first martyrdoms ordered by Hideyoshi on Feb. 5, 1597. The first martyrs, now canonized as saints, are venerated today as “The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki.”

Why the Franciscans? Takayama had actually never met any Franciscan friars in Japan. When the first Franciscan missionaries arrived in Japan, Ukon was already a back-number in Kanazawa, where he spent 26 years in domestic exile. But in 1597, when the first list of martyrs was being drawn-up by Hideyoshi’s officials, Takayama, as Japan’s most celebrated ‘Kirishitan Samurai,’ had topped the list – a martyrdom Takayama welcomed, if God so willed.

But Ukon’s name was crossed-out after two ‘great daimyo’ — Lord Maeda Toshiie (who, since 1588, had been the liege lord of Ukon who commanded Lord Maeda’s troops in support of Hideyoshi’s campaign at Odawara in 1590) and Lord Ishida Mitsunari (1563-1600), daimyō of Sawayama in Ōmi Province, a 500,000-koku fief (now a part of Hikone) — asked Hideyoshi not to humiliate and crucify Ukon — in a grim parody of Calvary. There were too many uncalculated consequences.

In Manila, Ukon replaced his samurai sword with a crucifix. The ‘Decree of Martyrdom’ issued by Pope Francis on Jan. 21, 2016, recognized Ukon Takayama as a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.” Ukon was beatified — declared ‘Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama’ — on Feb. 7, 2017.
YEARS AGO, I checked out the ‘sword tale’ with the Franciscan archivist, Fr. Pedro Ruano, OFM, asking where ‘Takayama’s Samurai Sword’ could be. He said, “It would be in Madrid – if we have it in the first place.”

One day, someone will get to check out this slender historical thread. But in the scheme of things, this is just a tantalizing history factoid for now.#

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee


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