►BOOKS: There are “over 1,000 books, pamphlets, monographs” – and one fiction novel, “Justo Ucundono, Prince of Japan,” by Philalethes [John E. Blox], Baltimore: John Murphy & Co. 1854. (Reprint: Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2007) — about the celebrated ‘Samurai of Christ,’ Justus Ukon Takayama, the FIRST being Fr. Pedro Morejon, SJ, “A briefe relation of the Persecution lately made against the Catholike Christians, in the Kingdome of Iaponia… Taken out of the Annuall Letters of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus,” St. Omer, France: 1619, translated from the Spanish ‘by Fr. William Wright, SJ [1563-1639].’ (Copy at Bodleian Library, Oxford University)
Particularly important are accounts of contemporary Jesuit missionaries who worked with and documented every year of the life of Ukon Takayama: ◘ P. Gaspar Vilela, SJ (c1524-1572) who baptized Justo in June 1563; ◘ P. Luis Frois, SJ (1530-1597); ◘ P. Organtino Gnecchi-Soldo, SJ (1530-1609); ◘ P. Gaspar Coelho, SJ (1530-1590); ◘ P. Gregorio de Cespedes, SJ (c1532-1611); ◘ P. Antonio Prenestino, SJ (c1543-1589); ◘ P. Giuseppe Fornaleti, SJ (c1545-1593); ◘ P. João Rodriguez Giram, SJ (1558-1629); ◘ P. Mattheus de Couros, SJ (1567-1633); ◘ P. Pedro Morejon, SJ (1562-1639), and ◘ P. Gabriel de Matos, SJ (1571-1634). Some years of Ukon’s life were covered by as many as SIX Jesuit writers.
Even the during the years of Sakoku (鎖国, “closed country”), 1636-1854, many books in Western languages were published, among them, St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, CSsR (1696-1787), Victories of the Martyrs (1775, 1887, 1954) which, based on his research on documents at the Vatican Archives, declared that Takayama was truly a martyr.
►ARTISTIC REPRESENTATIONS: There are “over a hundred” different representations of the “Samurai of Christ,” Justo Ukon Takayama, in Google.com / Images. But there are no Japanese woodcuts – or woodblock prints — yet.
We are sharing 11 woodcuts that appear in Doc. XXX – ‘Opera Artistica et Monumenta’ in Hubert Cieslik, SJ (CBCJ Historical Committee lead historian), “Justus Takayama Ukon, Servus Dei,” trans., edited and laser-printed by Ernesto A. de Pedro (Manila: Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation, 1994), 661p.
On the basis of this bookbound document, the Congregation for the Canonization of Saints (CCS) at the Vatican granted on June 8, 1994, a ‘Nihil Obstat’ recognizing the Japanese Christian of heroic virtue, Justo Ukon Takayama, as a “Servant of God.”
The Woodcut-Carver Was Non-Christian – But Often Tackled Christian Themes
THE WOODCUTS of Akusawa Isamu (1909- ?), a non-Christian artist known for his monumental woodcut series, was often occupied with Christian themes. In a series of small woodcuts — (24cm x 24cm) — he represented key scenes from the life of Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615).
◘ Memorial-stone of the baptism of Justo Takayama at age 12 (at Sawa Castle in Haibara-cho, Nara Prefecture), with carp-flags in the background as symbols of the children’s feast.
Justo’s father, Takayama Hida-no-kami or Don Dario Takayama, was the lord of Sawa Castle in the Yamato mountains to the south of Nara. He and his entire household were baptized on the same occasion.
◘ The boy TAKAYAMA Hikogorō (彦五郎), at 12 – at the time of his baptism in June 1563, taking the baptismal name “Justo” — after St. Justin Martyr (c100- c165 AD).
◘ Justus as Lord of the Takatsuki Castle (in Settsu Province) of which he became the castellan at age 21.
◘ Justus entering the battle at Yamasaki (1582). Leading a vanguard of “less than 1,000” men, Ukon helped insure the victory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
In the Battle of Yamazaki to avenge the death of Oda Nobunaga, Hideyoshi sent three advance detachments to spearhead the attack against “The 13-Day Shogun,” Akechi Mitsuhide, while Hideyoshi himself force-marched an army of 20,000 troops that was eight miles behind the forward forces, advancing by “30 to 40 km a day.” James Murdoch writes in A History of Japan (1903) that Takayama led the first detachment of “less than 1,000 troops” but “they were so fired with the ardor of battle, and so confident with the help of God that on seeing the enemy, Justo did not hesitate to lead them to battle. And they so bore themselves that in a twinkling, they [accounted for] more than 200 nobles of Akechi.” This led Ieyasu (r. 1603-1605; d. 1616) — the first of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan till 1868 — to remark: “In Ukon’s hands 1,000 soldiers would be worth more than 10,000 in the hands of whosoever else.”
◘ Justus as father of the people.
◘ Mission-work of Ukon at Akashi, in Hyōgo Prefecture (1586-87)
◘ Justus, as tea-master, was known as ‘Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami’
Ukon Takayama was one of seven prized pupils of Sen no Rikyū (1522–1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on the development of ‘Chanoyu.’ The principles Sen set forward for the “Way of Tea” — harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei), and tranquility (寂 jaku) — are still central to tea ceremony today.
Ukon, who is always included in the variable list of “Rikyu’s Seven” (‘Rikyushichitetsu’), 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 Takayama its Christian transfiguration.
◘ Justus in Kanazawa
In Kanazawa, Ukon — no longer a Daimyo — served as a samurai-general of the Maeda clan for 26 years. During this period of ‘domestic exile,’ Ukon rebuilt the Kanazawa Castle.
Ukon also built a church in Kanazawa; from 1604, a Jesuit priest and brother resided permanently in the church.
Some 600 of his former retainers and other Christian exiles, such as Naito Tokuan and Ukita Kyukan, took refuge in his lands in Noto Peninsula, where Ukon had built two churches for his Catholic community.
◘ Justus, expecting martyrdom in Nagasaki.
Ukon prepared for death by undergoing the 30-day “Spiritual Exercises” under his Jesuit confessor, Fr. Pedro Morejon, SJ (1562-1639).
The “Spiritual Exercises” are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence.
◘ Voyaging to exile in Manila – with 350 other Japanese Christians, including his wife, Dona Justa Takayama, daughter Lucia Yokoyama, and five grandsons.
◘ Ascent to Heaven.
During the Sakoku Period, the Japanese had no way of knowing whatever happened to Ukon Takayama in Manila. With the Meiji Constitution (明治憲法), proclaimed on Feb. 11, 1889, providing for ‘freedom of religion,’ the first Japanese Catholic pilgrims arrived in Manila on Feb. 3-7, 1937 — to attend the XXXIIIrd International Eucharistic Congress being hosted by Manila. They brought with them a historical research group tracing the footsteps of Ukon Takayama in ‘Old Manila.’ This was the first Japanese Catholic delegation sent abroad since the ‘Tenshō Embassy’ (Japanese: 天正の使節) of four Japanese seminarians visited the Pope and the kings of Europe in 1582.
By coincidence, the Eucharistic Congress started on Feb. 3, 1937, the 322nd death anniversary of the ‘Kirishitan Samurai’ Justo Ukon Takayama.
Since then, students and devotees of Justo Ukon Takayama have kept the fervor burning. Now Beatified (Feb. 7, 2017), Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama is – at this stage – waiting for an ‘intercessory miracle’ required for final canonization.
Dr. Ernie A. de Pedro