►The celebrated “Kirishitan Samurai” – known to us as Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) – was known in Europe as “Dom Justo Ucondono.” This in how Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585 – Aug. 27, 1590) addressed Ukon when he wrote him a “Papal Breve” with his Apostolic Blessings on April 24, 1590 when he learned that Ukon had been stripped of his feudal domain in Akashi (in Hyogo Prefecture) for refusing to abjure his Christian faith.
For a year after his expulsion, Ukon lived as a “ronin” – a masterless samurai.
Even before his domestic exile in Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, where he served as a guest general of the Maeda clan (whose domain encompassed Etchū, Kaga, and Noto provinces), Takayama was already celebrated as a Japanese artist.
Ukon and 600 other masterless Christian samurai served the Maeda from 1587 till 1614 when he was deported to the Philippines.
Renowned Tea Master
►Takayama Ukon was a prized pupil of Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on the development of “Chanoyu.”
Ukon was one of the celebrated “Rikyushichitetsu” (Rikyu’s Seven), who 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. As a tea-master, Ukon was known as “Minami-no-Bô Takayama Hida no-kami.”
Takayama Ukon – Food Trendsetter in Kanazawa
►Some Japanese food historians credit Takayama Ukon with concocting the recipe for “Jibuni” [治部煮] – go ahead, Google it! – the most well-known winter dish of the Kaga region, consisting of duck simmered in a flavorful broth and accompanied with vegetables.
Some say the dish was influenced by the Portuguese. The only Portuguese in the Hokuriku region were the Jesuit missionaries who were Ukon’s friends.
►A multi-faceted artist, Takayama Ukon mastered the various forms of Japanese poetry – ◘ the song (“waka”), ◘ the linked verse (“renga”), and ◘ the epigram (“haiku”). — Heinrich Dumoulin, 2005.
We have yet to get hold of curated samples of Ukon’s poetic expressions.#
By Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro