‘You Are My Liege Lord, But Christ’s First’ – Lord Takayama to Regent Hideyoshi, July 24, 1587

Lord Takayama at Takatsuki Castle
A Catholic convert at 11, Hikogoro Takayama became Lord of Takatsuki Castle at age 21. He ruled this strategic castletown that straddled the lone highway between Kyoto and Osaka for 12 years — until his transfer to Akashi with three times the revenue.

►In the summer of 1587, as the Regent (Kampaku) Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, 1537–1598) was consolidating power with final battles in Kyushu, where the Akashi Daimyō Justo Takayama Ukon (高山右近, 1552-1615) was a field commander, he sent Sen no Rikyū (千利休, 1522–1591), to Lord Takayama: Would Ukon renounce his fealty to a foreign religion?

Hideyoshi did not want a foreign God in Japan. So he decided to expel all missionaries who were bringing the tenets of “that evil religion” among the Japanese, including many daimyos in Kyushu.

Rikyū was a friend of both Hideyoshi and Takayama, so he knew what Ukon’s reply would be, but he was duty-bound to bring the message nonetheless.

‘Christ First’

Lord Takayama knew well the consequences of his decision. He dispatched  a horseman from Hakata to Akashi – six hours’ drive in Japan’s modern roadway system – for his family to vacate immediately the new Akashi castle he had just built – before Hideyoshi’s cohorts got there.

Now a “rōnin” (浪人, “drifter” or “wanderer”), Takayama sought to keep his family together in the faith. For a year, he was under the protection of his friend and fellow Christian, Lord Konishi Yukinaga (小西 行長, 1555-1600) – who despite being a Christian, was untouchable because Hideyoshi needed him for the conquest of Korea – and then China.

Confrontation (Imagined) between Hideyoshi and Takayama
This composite used to be two separate illustrations that were hanging in the room of Fr. Hubert Cieslik, SJ, lead historian of Dom Justo Ukon Takayama. Dr. Ernesto de Pedro combined the two in this single artwork.

For the next 26 years, Takayama was in domestic exile in Kanazawa — whose Great Daimyo Lord Maeda Toshiie (前田 利家, 1538–1599) — though not a Christian, had a daughter who was one. Takayama served as guest general (“Kyakusho“). in Maeda’s standing army.

In 1590, Takayama fought for Lord Toshiie Maeda in the Siege of Odawara, Toyotomi Hideyoshi‘s campaign to eliminate the Hōjō clan as a threat to his power. Hideyoshi’s victory occasioned an invitation from Hideyoshi for Ukon to join him at a tea ceremony, suggesting there was no personal enmity between the two wary men.

While Takayama himself served at the Maeda court in Kanazawa, he was given an estate in Noto Peninsula to support his family and his retainers. Here he invited some 600 Christian ronin and their families to make up two ecclesial communities in Shika-machi (志賀町) and Shio-machi (志雄町) with its own Jesuit chaplain and Brother.

But the increasing Christian activity of Ukon had not escaped the notice of Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543-1616) and when the ruler ordered the expulsion of the missionaries on Jan. 27, 1614, he paid special attention to the Christian community, exiling its leaders Ukon and Lord Juan Tokuan Naitô (内藤 如安, c15491626) along with their families. Other outstanding members of this church were condemned to hard labor in the region of Tsugaru.

The Tokugawa shogunate’s prohibition was extended to everyone regardless of class or origin, including all missionaries without exception. The shogunate was concerned about a possible invasion by the Iberian colonial powers, which had previously occurred in the New World and the Philippines.

Takayama in Kanazawa
The “Samurai of Christ” Ukon Takayama spent the last 26 years of his life in Kanazawa. These years were Ukon’s happiest because, unique in all Japan, he was able to establish two ecclesial communities with their own Jesuit chaplain in his estate in Shika-machi and Shio-machi in the Noto Peninsula.

It was from Kanazawa that Takayama departed for Manila on Feb. 14, 1614 – on a 267-day journey on foot (with lengthy stops to wait for developments) to Nagasaki – and after a 43-day voyage to the Philippines on board a Chinese sampan captained by the Portuguese mariner Esteban d’Acosta — arrived in Manila on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614 – with his family of 7 (wife Doña Justa Kuroda Takayama, daughter Lady Lucia Yokoyama [wife of Lord Yokoyama Daizen Yasuharu], and five grandsons (aged 8-16), all surnamed Takayama) and 350 other migrants and refugees (M&R).

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro, PhD
Managing Trustee
Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama

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