►The story of the celebrated “Samurai for Christ” — Dom Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) — is of enduring interest for all people of faith. Why has this Japanese Christian samurai of heroic virtue resonated so well among so many devotees across the world?
Here’s a brief that accompanies every Takayama statuette:
►One of the greatest heroes of the martyr Church of Japan is undoubtedly the Catholic lay apostle, Justo Ukon Takayama, or “Justus Ucondono” as he was usually called by Jesuit missionaries. Although he greatly desired to shed his blood for Christ, he was not granted this honor, yet he sacrificed everything on three separate occasions for his Divine Master, was exiled to a foreign land (the Philippines) for the sake of his Faith, and died in Manila as a result of the hardships endured on the voyage to his exile.
Ukon Takayama was one of the greatest men of his era. He was an able ruler (as Daimyo, or feudal governor of Takatsuki from age 21, and later, of Akashi), a great general, an ingenious strategist, a master of the tea ceremony, a harmonious personality, and above all, an exemplary and saintly Christian.
He preached the Gospel among Japanese Buddhists — (which the Takayama family professed until their conversion and baptism in 1564) – better than many of the Jesuit missionaries. His amiable and attractive personality and, more striking, his blameless life, attracted numerous souls to the fold of the Good Shepherd. Not only did he convert his vassals and subjects to the Catholic Faith, but a number of the greatest personalities of his era were also won over by his entreaties and example to the cause of Christ. The Daimyos Gamo Ujisato, Kuroda Yoshitaka, and Lady Hosokawa Gracia were the most outstanding of them — but there were many others whose number and identity is known to God alone.
Ukon’s unblemished chastity was so generally admired even his adversary, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉, 1537–1598), who ruled Japan 1583-1598) could not but admire it.
‘Samurai of Christ’
As a samurai-daimyo devoted to Christ, Ukon Takayama professed his Faith openly — fighting battles under the Sign of the Cross.
When the hegemon Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長, 1534–1582; r. 1574-1582) threatened to massacre all Christians and destroy their churches — unless Ukon handed over to him the strategic castle of Takatsuki (in Osaka Prefecture), the heroic champion of Christ, without hesitation, renounced his domain and betook himself to Nobunaga, with shaved head — ready to die with the missionaries and Christians. Doing this, he fully realized the terrible danger to which he exposed the lives of his only son and his little sister, who were held as hostages by his suzerain Araki Murashige. God deigned to save Ukon’s life, spare his hostages and secure for him Nobunaga’s admiration and good graces.
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who succeeded Nobunaga) suddenly turned persecutor in 1587, Ukon Takayama was called upon either to deny his Faith, or lose his fief, and he gladly gave up everything rather than turn traitor to his Divine Master.
For several years, his life and the lives of his family were in grave danger – because of hatred for the Faith. Even after Hideyoshi’s wrath had cooled, he never again became a ruling daimyo but lived in relative obscurity as a guest samurai-general of the Daimyo Toshiee Maeda in Kanazawa. For the next 26 years, Takayama devoted his time sharing the Gospel, striving to be a worthy channel of God’s grace, It was in 1590 that Pope Sixtus V heard of Ukon’s plight. In a rare gesture, the Pope sent his Apostolic Blessings to Takayama, enjoining him to hold on to the Faith – and be an example to other oppressed Christians,
In 1614, Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543 – 1616) resolved to exterminate Christianity — “that evil foreign religion” — and Ukon Takayama was again among the first targets. Since the tyrant could not hope to make him apostatize, he exiled him to a foreign land, calculating that he would not long survive the rigors and hardships of the voyage. The fact that Ukon died a few weeks after his arrival at Manila shows most clearly that Ieyasu’s calculation has been only too correct. Thus Ukon Takayama had the satisfaction of giving up his life for the Divine Master.
In the estimation of his contemporaries, Ukon Takayama was a saintly man. After he had been deposed as Lord of Akashi (in 1587), he was now freer to preach the Gospel — ready to be killed for his Faith. When he visited Kyushu, the Christians there venerated him as a martyr.
Exiled to Manila
In Manila, he was welcomed with religious enthusiasm, for everyone was well aware of the honor of giving hospitality to a renowned Confessor of the Faith. His premature death on Feb. 3, 1615 caused general mourning and regret that Manila had been deprived of the presence of a man of God. His funeral in Intramuros, accorded by Church and State, was a great tribute to him, underscoring that an outstanding Servant of God had passed to a better life.
‘Son of Manila’
The Archdiocese of Manila (as the diocese where Takayama died, or where he was “born to Heaven”) first presented to the Vatican a petition for the beatification of Ukon Takayama in 1630 — only 15 years after he died. This was the FIRST EVER petition for sainthood sent to the Vatican from the Philippine Church!
Many who have remembered this heroic champion of Christ across the centuries continue to pray fervently that Ukon Takayama would someday be raised to the honors of the Altar, and thus be set as a model for young people.#
Takayama’s Timeline in the Philippines
1614 – (Dec. 21) — Arrival in Manila of Lord Justo Ukon Takayama with 350 Japanese Christian asylum seekers.
1615 – (Feb. 3) – Death of Ukon in Intramuros, Manila at the Jesuit/PLM Compound.
1630 – (Oct, 5) — Original Petition for Takayama’s sainthood sent by Manila Archdiocese to the Vatican.
1937 – (Feb. 3) – The 33rd International Eucharistic Congress in Manila (Feb. 3-7, 1937) passes resolution supporting the Beatification Cause of Takayama.
1942 – (Sept. 20) – Takayama Memorial Mass in honor of Takayama — a symbol of Philippine-Japanese friendship and amity in time of war — is celebrated at San Marcelino Church – with Japanese military and Philippine government officials in attendance.
1963 – (April 24) – Manila Cardinal Rufino J. Santos endorses to the Japanese Church the Cause of Takayama.
1977 – (Nov. 17) – Inauguration of the Takayama Memorial as the centerpiece of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Park at Plaza Dilao, Paco, Manila.
1992 – (Nov. 17) – Takayama Memorial is declared a National Monument by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
1994 — (June 5) – The “Samurai of Christ” is declared “Servant of God.”
2016 – (Jan. 21) – Decree of Martyrdom issued by Pope Francis, declaring Takayama, a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.”
2017 — (Feb. 7) — Beatification of the “Servant of God” Justo Ukon Takayana as a Beatus (“Blessed”).
2017 – (March 28) — Takayama Shrine established at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC), home of the UST Graduate School.
2018 – (Feb. 3) — Liturgical feast day of Blessed Takayama in Japan and the Philippines.
2018 – (Dec. 21) — Manila City Council issues a Resolution declaring every December 21 – as “Blessed Takayama Ukon Day” in Manila.#
Manila-Based Trustees of Takayama’s Memory
►The Manila-based “Blessed Takayama Canonization Movement” relies on Social Media to promote (in English) the canonization of the “Jesuit samurai” – Blessed Justo Takayama (Osaka 1552-Manila 1615).
Takayama died in Intramuros, Manila on Feb. 3, 1615 – only 44 days after he and 350 Japanese Christian exiles arrived in Manila. Because, under Church rubrics, “where a person dies, is where one is born to Heaven,” the Manila Archdiocese proposed this “Son of Manila” for sainthood at the Vatican on Oct. 5, 1630 – the first candidate EVER proposed by the Philippine Church.
Pope Francis issued a ‘Decree of Martyrdom’ on Jan. 21, 2016, declaring Lord Takayama, a “layperson … from Japan [who] died from the hatred of the Faith on Feb. 3, 1615 in Manila, Philippines.”
Servant of God Justo Ukon Takayama was beatified on Feb. 7, 2017. He is thus the Philippines’ THIRD Blessed – and 436th venerated martyr of Japan.
How Did Filipinos Get Involved in this Japanese Cause?
►With funding from Buddhist and Protestant admirers of Lord Takayama, a group of Filipino and Japanese history buffs in Manila decided to send Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro to visit the Vatican Archives in 1986, to research on Vatican archival materials about Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (whose Memorial at Plaza Dilao was erected in 1977). The Archives Director was puzzled why a Filipino researcher was interested in the Japanese “Samurai of Christ” — Ukon Takayama.
De Pedro explained that Takayama died in Manila in 1615 – and there was a flow of Japanese pilgrims visiting Manila to trace Takayama’s footsteps – and wanted to know more about the “historical Takayama.”
When De Pedro visited the Jesuit Curia, the Jesuit General Postulator, Fr. Paolo Molinari, SJ, — who was in charge of the “Beatification Cause of Takayama” (an “ancient cause” pending since 1630) — handed over a carton-box-full of xerographed documents submitted by the CBCJ Historical Committee in 1975 — to support the “Cause of Beatification” of Takayama. Could De Pedro undertake to translate the documents into English within two years? (The CBCJ had submitted the documents in 1975 – and all the while that Catholics in Japan were fervently praying for the beatification of Takayama for 11 years, these papers were actually “dormant” at the Jesuit Postulator’s office – as the German, Portuguese and Japanese text that some chapters were written in were not considered official Vatican languages. The papers could not be studied – unless all text was in an official Vatican language – like Italian, English, Latin or Spanish.)
De Pedro accepted the pro-bono assignment. When he completed the one-volume ‘Positio’ — “Justus Takayama Ukon, Servus Dei” (1994, 648p) — the Jesuit Postulator General, Fr. Paulo Molinari, acknowledged: “Thanks to your much appreciated collaboration, all the essential materials for this important ‘Cause’ are by now available.”
De Pedro and the supportive “Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama” have promoted the “Cause of Takayama” ever since.
Spreading the Word
►To spread info about Blessed Takayama, we run the website: https://www.takayamaukon.com/ – As this is the only Takayama website in English – it is the ‘de facto’ aggregator of Takayama info.
►On Facebook, we promote the ‘Takayama Cause’ on the FB Page: //http://www.facebook.com/justotakayamaukon
►Promoter’s FB account: https://http://www.facebook.com/drernestodepedro/
We implore your prayers and support for the “Cause of Blessed Takayama” which – at this stage – is waiting for ONE “intercessory miracle” required for final canonization.#
Dr. ERNESTO A. DE PEDRO