Photo Album on ‘First Mass’ in Birthplace of Ukon Takayama – in Toyono-cho, Osaka

►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.

The Opening Remarks were followed by the presentation of a Plaque of Appreciation & gifts
Handbell performance by students of the Assumption School.

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

A celebrated ‘Haiku’ poet, Cardinal Maeda composed four ‘Haiku’ to mark  the Special Event.

► Cardinal Maeda’s message after the awarding of plaque of appreciation:

豊能町

高山右近

致命祭

Toyono-chou
Takayama Ukon
Chimeisai

In Toyono Town
Oh Ukon Takayama
Feast of the martyrs

高山の

右近夫婦や

冬の虹

Takayama no
Ukon fuufu ya
Fuyu no niji

Ukon and his wife
Both hailed from Takayama
Rainbow of winter

► During Cardinal Maeda’s homily:

右近忌の

主君はイエス

平和かな

Ukon-ki no
Shukun wa Iesu
Heiwa ka na

With Ukon’s passing
Jesus was his Master
This is peace indeed

剣に変え

十字架を手に

右近忌や

Tsurugi ni kae
Juujika wo te ni
Ukon-ki ya

Instead of a sword
Held a crucifix at hand
Passing of Ukon #

First Eucharistic Mass in Toyono-cho was celebrated on Feb. 16

Cardinal Maeda enters the “Ukon-no-Sato” (Takayama community center)
The “Ukon-no-Sato” (Takayama community center) is a multi-purpose venue for events

►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…”

A large number of the congregation lined up to receive Holy Communion — from three priests. For a community hearing Mass for the first time, how could that be? It turns out that parishioners (including nuns) of Shukugawa Catholic Church and six other parishes attended the Toyono-cho “First Mass.”

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.

The granite statues serve as backdrop for many Special Events, particularly the yearly reenactment of the wedding of Ukon to Justa Kuroda

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.

Toyono-cho marker — with name of Ukon Takayama engraved

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

A look back at a snow-covered hut in vegetable field
Stillness overlooking rice fields
A path with morning dew
Covered with gentle sun light
Village in autumn … Buck wheat flower and cosmos
Candle night — on the night of Ukon’s festival in October

Memento Photo of ‘First Mass in Toyono-cho’ with Cardinal Maeda

This is the first of many groups who wanted to have a memento photograph 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
Takayama Trustee

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