►For the first time since the “Samurai for Christ,” Blesseed Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近, 1552-1615) was born in Takayama Village, in Toyono-cho, Osaka Prefecture — the Municipal Government of Toyono-cho (a 100% Shinto-Buddhist town) invited Osaka Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda to celebrate Mass there. Cardinal Maeda – the lone Cardinal in Japan’s Catholic hierarchy – brought six priests to concelebrate with him – as well as parishioners (including nuns) from ● Ashiya, ● Kishiwada, ● Nigawa, ● Osaka-Umeda. ● Sakai, ● Sennan, and ● Shukugawac — who wanted to participate in the historic occasion.
The program was hosted by ● “Honor-Ukon-Takayama-Couples-Gathering” — in collaboration with the Buddhist-based ● “Ukon Takayama Canonization Promotion Committee.”
It was both a civic celebration — and a Catholic special event
On behalf of the municipal government, Welcome Remarks were delivered by Hon. Isao Ikeda, Toyono Town Mayor.
Cardinal Maeda Composed Four ‘Haiku’ for the Occasion
►The “haiku” is a traditional Japanese short poem (with 5-7-5 syllables) — practised by both Lord Justo Ukon Takayama and Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda. A multi-faceted artist, Takayama Ukon is said to have mastered the three forms of Japanese poetry: ◘ the song (“waka”), ◘ the linked verse (“renga”), and ◘ the epigram (“haiku”). ~ Heinrich Dumoulin, 2005
► Cardinal Maeda’s message after the awarding of plaque of appreciation:
In Toyono Town
Oh Ukon Takayama
Feast of the martyrs
Ukon fuufu ya
Fuyu no niji
Ukon and his wife
Both hailed from Takayama
Rainbow of winter
Shukun wa Iesu
Heiwa ka na
With Ukon’s passing
Jesus was his Master
This is peace indeed
Tsurugi ni kae
Juujika wo te ni
Instead of a sword
Held a crucifix at hand
Passing of Ukon #
First Eucharistic Mass in Toyono-cho was celebrated on Feb. 16
►The visit of Osaka Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda on Feb. 16, 2019 to “Ukon-no-Sato” (Takayama Community Center in Takayama Village, Toyono-cho was NOT a “return to Christianity” – Christianity never took root there, not even in Ukon’s time (1552-1615). It has remained Shinto-Buddhist till today although the town’s most celebrated son is Ukon Takayama, a revered Christian Samurai..
In the first feedback from a Buddhist official of Toyono-cho, Megumi IMAIZUMI, who sent in some photos, shares: “The ceremony went well, the Mass was solemn and moving…”
Toyono-cho — and the Ukon Takayama Couple
►In 2016, townmates built granite statues to honor Lord Ukon Takayama and Lady Justa Kuroda Takayama in Toyono-cho (Osaka), birthplace of Ukon Takayama (1552-1615). This is the first representation seen of Mrs. Takayama.
Though Ukon spent his boyhood years — as “Takayama Hikogorō” (彦五郎) in Takayama Village — the Takayama family had moved to Sawa Castle when his father Takayama Tomoteru (1531–1596) became the castle-lord of Sawa Castle in Haibara-cho, Nara Prefecture. In Sawa Castle, Hikogorō – now 12 — joined his father and other members of their family in converting to Christianity.
The Sawa Castle castle was situated at the summit of the mountain southwest of Mt. Inasa as the headquarters for the Sawa Family, which supplied one of the three leading generals of the Uda district between 1346-1370. But, as the stone marker shows, its importance as a medieval-age castle comes from its having been the boyhood residence of the Christian daimyo (feudal clan lord), Takayama Ukon, as written in “History of Japan” by the Portuguese missionary, Luis Frois, SJ (ca. 1532-97). All that remains of Sawa Castle is a historical marker — with Ukon’s name engraved on it.
Maria Leona Nepomuceno, currently the attaché and director for West Japan of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT) in Osaka, who brought the first two Toyono-cho pilgrims to Manila in 2017 and 2018, was invited to attend the Feb. 16 ceremonies. She was warned that it would be very cold and was told to wear snow boots. February is the coldest month in Japan.
Four Seasons in Toyono-cho, Osaka
Memento Photo of ‘First Mass in Toyono-cho’ with Cardinal Maeda
With the inspiring memory of Blessed Takayama guiding his townmates who are studying his long journey into exile, the quest for The Word is just now starting.
By Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro