Basic Reading List on Blessed Takayama

►We receive e-mails requesting for a list of printed literature about Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama (山右近, 1552 Osaka-1615 Manila). No books in English have been published in the past 30 year

The Takama website – http://www.TakayamaUkon.com – contains blogs that may fill this need.

§§§ For an introduction, written in the 1950s but still relevant, read Fr. Diego Pacheco, SJ, “Fate of a Christian Daimyo.”
https://takayamaukon.com/fate-of-a-christian-daimyo/

§§§ For a summary of Ukon’s heroic virtues, read Fr. Johannes Laures, SJ, “Takayama Ukon – A Candidate for Sainthood.”
https://takayamaukon.com/takayama-ukon-a-candidate-for-canonization/

§§§ For an overview of Blessed Takayama’s life, written by his Jesuit postulator, Fr. Anton Witwer, SJ, read “Justus Ukon Takayama: the Greatest Japanese Missionary of the 16th Century.”

§§§ For Pope Francis’ view on Blessed Takayama, read “Pope Francis – and 7 Occasions He Extolled the ‘Samurai Christi,’ Justus Ukon Takayama.”

§§§ For Blessed Takayama’s relevance to the Philippine Church, read Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, “Vatican-Bound Cardinal Tagle Commends Blessed Takayama to the Care of Filipino Bishops.”

§§§ For the “accidental” involvement of Filipinos in the promotion of the Cause of Beatification, even after Manila had “seconded” the Cause to the Church of Japan in 1963, read “Journeying with Lord Takayama.”
https://takayamaukon.com/journeying-with-lord-takayama/

§§§ For the search for Takayama’s mortal remains in Manila, read “The Search for the Bones of Takayama Ukon.”
https://takayamaukon.com/the-search-for-the-bones-of-takayama-ukon/

Dr. Ernesto A. De Pedro, PhD
Managing Trustee
Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama
Recipient of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Blessing No. 460.258



In 1937, Manila Hosted the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress – the First Held in Asia

►Held from February 3-7, 1937, the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress attracted Catholic pilgrims from around the world. It marked the first time a Catholic Cardinal set foot on the Philippines – Philadelphia Cardinal Dennis Joseph Cardinal Dougherty (1865-1951), who formerly served as Bishop of Nueva Segovia (1903–1908) and Jaro (1908–1915).

Easily the most colorful delegation was from Japan, attending its first pilgrimage outside Japan since freedom of religion in was guaranteed by the Meiji Constitution (明治憲法) which was proclaimed on Feb. 11, 1889.

The Japanese delegation made a point of wearing regional costumes of various territories in the Empire of Japan: ●Kuril Islands, ●Taiwan (臺灣), ●Karafuto (樺太庁, South Sakhalin), ●Kwantung Leased Territory, ●Korea (朝鮮), ●Shandong, ●South Seas Mandate and ●Manchuria.

Provindentially, the 5-day Congress started on Wednesday, Feb. 3, the 322nd anniversary of the deathday of Dom Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近, 1552 Osaka-1615 Manila) – identified by Fr. Repetti as “Justo Ukón-dono Tacayawa.”

Malate Church, Manila
Japanese delegates to the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila Feb. 3-7, 1937 were assigned the Malate Church for the observance of the Holy Hour

Fr. Repetti shares his account of the last day of the Congress:

►On the last morning of the Eucharistic Congress, a little ceremony took place which was interesting but attracted scarcely any notice.

It commenced at the Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius (San Ignacio Church-II) in the Walled City [Intramuros] and ended at St. Theresa College on San Marcelino St., Ermita (now the site of Adamson University).

To understand its significance, it is necessary to give the historical background.

It is well known that the Church of Japan suffered one of its fiercest persecutions in the 17th century — a persecution which wiped out all external evidence of the faith. In 1614, a large group of Japanese Catholics chose exile from their native land rather than deny their faith and they found refuge in Manila. Accompanying this band of confessors there were eight Jesuit priests and 15 lay Brothers, four Franciscan friars, and two Dominican friars.

The Governor-General of the Philippines, Don Juan de Silva (in office: April 1609 – April 19, 1616), and the Archbishop of Manila, Don Diego Vázquez de Mercado (r. May 28, 1608 – June 12, 1616), gave the party a royal welcome, and they established their homes in a suburb of Manila known as San Miguel. It was located on the southside of the Pasig river whereas San Miguel of the present time is on the north bank. The Jesuits had a church in San Miguel and ministered to the spiritual needs of the exiles.

By far the most prominent layman among the exiles was Justo Ukon-dono Tacayawa (sic) [Takayama]. He was born in 1552 and was baptized in 1563 by the first Japanese Jesuit. Brother Lorenzo, who had been baptized by St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) and received the name Justo. His father and mother were received into the Church the same year.

He became a military leader and then lord (daimyo) of Takatsuki, and later on, of Akashi. His greatest distinction rests on his strong faith and ardent zeal. He converted all those around him and all those who came into contact with him. Fr. Luis Fróis, SJ (1532 – 1597) said that “among our proselytizers, he had the greatest success in gathering sheep into the Holy Flock.”

Forty-four days after arriving in Manila, he contracted a fever and died on Feb. 3, 1615 at the age of 63. His obsequies took place in the Jesuit Church in Manila (i.e., Santa Ana Church in the present-day PLM /Jesuit Campus) and all possible honor was shown to him on this occasion. He was interred in the place reserved for the Jesuit provincials of the Province of the Philippines. Twenty years later, his bones were placed in an urn and transferred to the Chapel of the St. Ignatius University which adjoined the Jesuit church. In the course of time, the Church, the University, and all Jesuit property disappeared or were scattered. What became of Don Justo’s remains is not known.

Ukon-dono brought his wife Justa and five grandsons into exile, and he was also accompanied by an intimate friend and great Christian, Juan Tocuan Naito (1544-1626). He died in 1626 and was buried with honors in our church in Manila. His sister, Mother Julia Naito, shared her brother’s exile and erected a convent in San Miguel in which she passed a strict religious life as superioress of 13 Japanese women. She died on March 28, 1627.

The Japanese Catholics have always cherished the memory of these sufferers for the faith and have desired to show honor to them. A fitting opportunity of fulfilling their desires seemed to offer itself on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress in Manila. When the Japanese delegation left Nagasaki, Bishop Hayakawa bestowed his blessing and urged them to find the burial place of the famous exiles and mark them to show in an appropriate manner.

Peter Yakichi Kataoka of the Franciscan Seminary in Nagasaki undertook the task of ascertaining the locations of such special interest to the Japanese. He came to the Manila Observatory, and the writer [Fr. W. C. Repetti] was able to give him sufficient information to justify the placing of historical markers.

The site occupied by the Jesuit Church and University in the 17th century is now occupied by the United States Army and the erection of any monument or marker in that place would involve considerable negotiations and would have been immediately impossible in the short time available.

The pilgrims wished to do something in honor of their heroes during their visit to Manila.

Since they wished the commemoration to have some connection with the Society of Jesus, it was suggested that St. Ignatius Church-II, only a short distance from the old site, be selected as the place to do honor to the memory of Ukon-dono. The suggestion was satisfactory to the pilgrims, and Fr. John F. Hurley, the Jesuit superior, readily gave his approval.

On Sunday morning, February 7, a group of about 20 pilgrims gathered in front of the  St. Ignatius Church and grouped themselves around the memorial column where some pictures were taken. Rev. (later Cardinal) Paul Yoshigoro Taguchi, co-leader of the Eucharistic pilgrims, was present, as also was Fr. Washida from Nagasaki. The Japanese Vice-Consul and his wife lent an official tone to the assembly. Fr. Hurley, SJ, Fr. Emmet Creahan, and Fr. W. C. Repetti, SJ, were invited to join the group.

The memorial took the form of a wooden column about six inches square and eight feet long. This was the only thing possible in the short time available. The Japanese inscription was painted on one side and a brief English translation was painted on another side, as follows: “Memorial to Justo Ukon-dono, Catholic Japanese exile. Died Feb. 3, 1615.” The wooden monument is to be attached to the wall of the San Ignacio Church-II and the Japanese hope to raise funds in Japan to substitute a more enduring memorial.

The pilgrims then went to the old site of the Jesuit church and University where Ukon-dono and Naito had been buried. Thence they went to the Franciscan Church and erected another column in the patio of the convent in honor of the Japanese who  found hospitality there in 1620.

From there the pilgrims proceeded to St. Theresa College and erected a column in one of its patios to the memory of Mother Julia Naito and her nuns.

Father Washida remarked: “Now we can go home contented.”

~ Fr. W. C. Repetti, SJ, in “A Tercentennial Commemoration in Manila during the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress,” Feb. 3-7, 1937 | Woodstock Letters, Volume LXVI, No. 2, June 1, 1937

The Imperial Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Jesuits

►In 1585, the Imperial Regent (Kampaku) Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, March 17, 1537–Sept. 18, 1598) — who is regarded as the second “Great Unifier” of Japan — dropped by the Jesuit seminary in Osaka, accompanied by a son and a brother of the late Oda Nobunaga, and several other lords, and held a “long and familiar conversation” with Fr. Gregorio de Céspedes, SJ (1551–1611), the Superior.#

“You know,” he told the priest, “that everything in your law [Christian religion] contents me, and I find no other difficulty in it, except its prohibition of having more than one wife. Were it not for that, I would become a Christian at once.”

~ James Murdoch, “A History of Japan,” Vol. 2, p. 214 (New York: Frederick Unger Publishing Co., 1903, 1964).#

Blessed Takayama’s Wide Footprint in Europe

►TO BE CLEAR: The celebrated “Samurai of Christ,” Dom Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近, 1552-Osaka-1615 Manila) — known at the Vatican as “Dom Justo Ucondono” — never set foot on Europe, but he had a wide footprint there – in books and theater plays. Europe, which was the source of all Jesuit missionaries sent to Japan, was fascinated with all things Japanese … and its most illustrious Catholic convert.

►Ever since the Italian merchant Marco Polo (1254-1324) wrote about Japan (which he called “Zipangu”) in his book 📖 “The Travels of Marco Polo” (Venice: c1300), describing his travels through Asia between 1271 and 1295, the Western World has been fascinated with a kingdom no one had yet visited. Marco Polo was the first European to write about Japan but it is unlikely that he visited Japan at all. Most likely his accounts were based on what he heard about Japan in China from sailors involved in the failed Mongol invasions of Japan (元寇, Genkō), which took place in 1274 and 1281, when Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty attempted to conquer Japan.  Marco’s account of the Mongol invasion of Japan is very sketchy because he heard of the invasion only from the Mongols.

The first three Europeans to arrive in Japan in 1543 were Portuguese traders who landed by accident at the southern tip of Tanegashima, where they would introduce the arquebus firearm to the local population, who eventually reconfigured it into the Tanegashima (種子島), a matchlock gun that changed warfare in the Japanese archipelago. Within ten years of its introduction upwards of 300,000 tanegashima were reported to have been manufactured. The tanegashima eventually became one of the most important weapons in Japan.

►With Dom Justo Ukon Takayama considered by the Jesuits as the greatest Japanese missionary of the sixteenth century, the Jesuits who were all Europeans brought the fame and heroic virtues of Lord Takayama throughout Europe: 🔸Italy, 🔸Spain, 🔸England, 🔸France, 🔸Germany, 🔸Austria, 🔸Switzerland, and 🔸Belgium. It is odd that there is no imprint from Portugal where most of the early Jesuit missionaries originated.

1590 — Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-1590) — Apostolic “Breve” (*photo of present-day print-out) dated April 24, 1590 imparted to Dom Justo Ucondono, when Lord Takayama was stripped of his feudal domain in Akashi Prefecture on June 24, 1587 for refusing to abjure his Christian faith.

1616 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖“Relacion de la persecucion que vuo en la yglesia de Iapon: y de los insignes martyres, que gloriosamente dieron su vida en defensa de n[uest]ra Santa Fè, el año de 1614. y 1615.”

1617 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Lettera annua del Giapone del MDCXIV” | al Molto Reuerendo Padre Mvtio Vitelleschi | Generale della Compagnua di GIESv.cion. Scritta del Padre Pietro Morecion della Compagnia di Giesv. (Roma, Per Basttolomeo Zanuzzi, MDCXVII.

1618? — P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Persecution against the Catholike Christians in the Kingdome of Japonia.”

1619-1621 — P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “A briefe relation of the persecution lately made against the Catholike Christians, in the kingdome of Iaponia: diuided into two bookes. Taken out of the annuall letters of the fathers of the Society of Iesus, and other authenticall informations.” Written in Spanish, and printed first at Mexico in the West Indies, the yeare of Christ M. DC. XVI. and newly translated into English by W.W. [William Wright, SJ].

This was a biography of Takayama Ukon written in Spanish by Ukon’s Spanish father-confessor, Fr. Pedro Morejon, SJ, and first published in Barcelona, then translated into English by Fr. William Wright, SJ. As the Jesuits were banned in England since 1604, this was published by the underground Jesuit press in St. Omer, France. All these — within four years of Takayama’s death in Manila!

1621-2018 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Historia y relación de lo svcedido en los reinos de Iapon y China, en la qual se continua le gran persecución que ha auido en aq̃lla Iglesia, desde el año de 615. hasta el de 19.”

1628-1999 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Triumphos, coronas, tropheos, de la perseguida yglesia de Iapon martyrios esclarecidos de nueue religiosos de la Compañia de Iesus, y de otros de su Familia, de la Relacion que del Collegio de Macan embiò el Padre Pedro Morejon, de la misma Compañia. Estado de la Yglesia dela Gran China. Reduccion de todo el Imperio de Preste Iuan de las Indias al Iglesia Romana. Successos varios en descubrimientos de Reynos no conocidos.”

1631-1632 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Lettere annue del Giappone degl’anni MDCXXV. MDCXXVI. MDCXXVII. : al Molto Reu. in Christo P. Mutio Vitelleschi preposito generale della Compagnia di Giesu.”

1631 – P. Pedro Morejon, SJ, 📖 “Relacion de los martyres del Iapon del año de 1627.”

1646 — P. Antonio Francisco Cardim, SJ (1596-1659) – 📖 “Fasciculus e Japonicis Floribus, suo adhuc madentibus Sanguine” (Japanese Flowers Still Dripping with Blood). Rome, 1646

1663 — Colin/Pastells, 📖 “Labor Evangelica, ministerios apostolicos de los obreros de la Compañia de Iesvs, fvndacion, y progressos de su provincia en las islas Filipinas” by Colín, Francisco (1592-1660; first published 1663); and copiously annotated by Fr. Pablo Pastells, SJ (1846-1932), eds. Barcelona: 1900.

1663-1742 – USE OF JESUIT THEATER PLAYS TO PROMOTE TAKAYAMA — By 1600, the Jesuits had over 200 schools, universities, and seminaries, most if not all of which offered some kind of public performance as part of the educational process. By 1706, that number had increased to 769 schools all over the world. In some parts of Europe, the Jesuits held a virtual monopoly on education, including parts of France, Austria, southern Germany, and Spain. And almost without exception, all of those schools performed plays, resulting in a huge body of dramatic literature and numerous public and private performances. According to Robert S. Miola, in the seventeenth century, “at least one hundred thousand (100,000) Jesuit dramas played on European stages.” (“Early Modern Catholicism: An Anthology of Primary Sources,” 2007, 329).

The performers and the audiences alike were the school’s students, although parents, patrons, and other personages of note would be invited to attend certain performances as well. Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin, and Louis XIV were all supporters and regular patrons of Jesuit drama in France.

1663 – First Jesuit play 🎭 about Lord Takayama is presented this year. Even an incomplete survey of the plays about Takayama shows how his fame spread throughout Europe, and played a role in the development of European drama.

Based on the research of Fr. John Baptist Muller, SJ (📖 “The Jesuit Drama,” Augsburg, 1930), and Fr. Thomas Imoos, SMB (professor of German Literature at Sophia University), the Takayama plays were presented from 1663 to 1742.

1663 – Munich (Germany) — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1666 – Vienna (Austria) — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1673 — Cornelius Hazart, SJ (1617-1690) — 📚 “Kerckelijke Historie van de Geheele Werelt…” (Religious History of the Whole World), Vienna: 1673.

1673 – Landshut, Bavaria, Germany — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1682 – Lucerne (Switzerland) — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1689 – Winnocx (Belgium) — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1691 — Kortryjk (Belgium) — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1698 – Sint Winchsbergen — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1698 — Kortryjk — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1724 – Ellwangen — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1742 — Solothurn — 🎭 Takayama play (presentation title, not indicated).

1775 – St. Alphonsus Ligouri, 📚”Victories of the Martyrs: Or, the Lives of the Most Celebrated Martyrs of the Church (1775, 1887, 1954). Researching at the Vatican Archives, Fr. (later, Saint) Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, CSsR (1696-1787) — “patron saint of journalists” – studied the Takayama papers and concluded that, despite dying in bed surrounded by family, Takayama was truly a martyr.

1806 — Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806, “Oratorio for Takayama” (1806). A music researcher at the British Library shared there was a chorus in honor of Takayama composed by the Austrian composer Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806), younger brother of the more famous composer, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) who was the most celebrated composer in Europe. The younger Haydn composed a chorus honoring Takayama. “It features a composite of Takayama and Titus,” Fr. Thomas Imoos, SMB (1918-2001) notes. Researchers in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, Japan tracked this down in Salzburg, studied the music, and had a choir sing at a symposium in Takatsuki.

1912 — MANRESA MOSAIC (1912) – There was a portrait of Takayama Ukon that was part of a mosaic on the nave of the church at the Santa Cueva in Manresa, Spain – which was first published in black & white in the “Tribune” in Manila in September 1942.

►This mosaic depicted six Catholic noblemen who were all products of the Jesuits’ famed 30-day “Spiritual Exercises,” namely:🔸the Bourbon king of France, Louis XIII, holding the book “Exercitia Spiritualia”;🔸Don Alvaro de Cordoba, a Spanish grandee whose public life was much influenced by the Jesuit manual;🔸the Hapsburg prince, Don Juan de Austria (1545-1578) — half-brother of Philip II, king of Spain — familiar to Filipinos as the victor of the Battle of Lepanto (1571);🔸Lord Justo Takayama Ukon (identified in the mosaic as “Justo Ucandono”);🔸Marques de Villapuente, renowned in Mexico, Africa and Europe for his charities; and🔸Don Lupercio de Arbizu, the Aragon nobleman who was persuaded by the Jesuits to build Manresa into a city.#

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

Nagasaki and Manila Are Linked by Two Martyrs: 💥San Lorenzo Ruiz and 💥Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama ~ Cardinal Tagle

Blessed Justo Takayama
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►A “bridge of faith and martyrdom” links the “Kirishitan Samurai,” Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615), Japan’s greatest lay missionary in the 16th century, who died in Manila in 1615, with San Lorenzo Ruiz (1594-1637), Filipino protomartyr who died in Nagasaki in 1637. “Martyrdom is the deepest link between our two churches,” Cardinal-Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, Cardinal Prefect of the Evangelization of Peoples  (“Propaganda Fide”), has said.

In a Eucharistic Mass with Japanese Catholics in Kobe, Japan on Feb. 3, 2016, then-Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the Philippines, especially Manila, and Japan are linked through a “bridge of faith and martyrdom.”

On Feb. 7, 2017, Cardinal Tagle concelebrated the Mass during the Beatification Ceremonies at the Osaka-jō Hall, Kyōbashi, Osaka (Japan), which was presided by Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS), on Pope Francis’s behalf.

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz

►Lorenzo was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.

Lorenzo’s life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide at which he was present or which was attributed to him.”

At that time, three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.

They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki.

They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.

The superior, Fr. Gonzalez, died after some days. Both Fr. Shiwozuka and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.

In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but in the ensuing hours Lorenzo felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.

Lorenzo’s  persecutors gave him an ultimatum, “Would you renounce your faith in God if we let you live?” To which Lorenzo bravely responded, “If I had one thousand lives, I’d give it all to Jesus. I would never deny my faith even if it costs my life.

The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semi-circular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. Still alive, the three priests were then beheaded.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz
Cardinal Tagle visits St. Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine in Nagasaki

In 1987, Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others: Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr. The Liturgical Feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions is September 28.

Cardinal Tagle
Cardinal Tagle distributes Holy Communion during 400th Takayama Memorial Mass in Kobe on Feb. 3, 2015.

Blessed Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615; beatified 2017)

Hikogorō Takayama (彦五郎).was born in 1552, scion of the castellan of Sawa Castle in Yamato Province, Tomoteru Takayama (高山友照, 1531–1596), an ardent Buddhist who persecuted the early Jesuit missionaries. But in a series of discussions with Bro. Lorenzo, a half-blind Jesuit brother, he was convinced of the tenets of Christianity, and converted with his family and retinues at Sawa Castle. Hikogorō, 11, was baptized Justo, after St. Justin the Martyr, on whose feast day on June 1, 1563 Justo was baptized.

Dom Dario Tomoteru Takayama was awarded the Takatsuki Castle, but the old man decided to turn over the domain to his eldest son Ukon, who at age 21, ruled Takatsuki foe the next 11 years.

In Takatsuki, Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (高山右近) used his resources to build churches, oratorios and a seminary for the Jesuits – to the chagrin of the Buddhist advisers of  Chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, 1537 – 1598).

In 1585, Ukon was reshuffled to to three-times larger Akashi (明石市, Akashi-shi) located in southern Hyōgo PrefectureJapan, on the Seto Inland Sea west of Kobe.

His troubles coincided with the persecution of Christians in Japan, which started on July 24-25, 1587. He received a message from Hideyoshi asking him to give up his faith or lose his fief and position in the latter’s army. He replied that while he had made an oath of allegiance to Hideyoshi, he was prepared to give up wealth, position and power to follow a greater lord, Jesus Christ.

Stripped of his Akashi domain, he became a ronin — a masterless samurai — who found protection with a Christian Daimyo, Admiral Augustine Konishi Yukinaga who, despite being a Christian, was needed by Hideyoshi to realize his conquest of Korea. With the tacit consent of Hideyoshi, Ukon was hired as a guest-general by Kaga Daimyo Toshiee Maeda, where he served until the final edict of February 1614, deporting him to either Macau or Manila.

Takayama left Kanazawa on Feb. 15, 1614, and after a 150-day journey in the winter, he arrived in Nagasaki where he boarded a boat for Manila on Nov. 8, 1614.

Takayama arrived in Manila on Dec. 21, 1614, and was literally greeted with open arms by the Spanish governor-general, Juan de Silva (r. 1609-1616). Justo Ucondono was accompanied by 350 Catholic deportees, including: his wife Lady Justa Kuroda Takayama (1563-?), a daughter, Lucia Takayama Yokoyama married to Yokoyama Daizen Yasuharu (1590-1645), a general of the Maeda clan; five grandchildren (the eldest 16, the youngest almost eight); and 💥23 Jesuits (eight Jesuit fathers and 15 Jesuit brothers), 💥four Franciscan fathers, 💥two Dominican fathers, 💥two Augustinian fathers, and 💥two secular fathers, 💥the 15 nuns (14 Japanese, one Korean) of the Jesuit-chaplained “Beatas de Meaco” or “Miyako no Bikuni” (Nuns of Kyoto, 1615-1656), 💥about 100 Japanese catechists, and 💥two dozen sons and daughters of Japanese noble families.

Sometime in January 1615, Takayama fell ill. He died of “a tropical ailment” four days later, on Tuesday,  Feb. 3, 1615 — only 44 days after his arrival in Manila on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614. He was buried near the High Altar of the Jesuit church in Intramuros – Santa Ana Church – at the PLM /Jesuit Compound.

Cardinal Tagle Celebrating 400th Takayama Memorial Mass in Kobe
Cardinsl Tasgle celebrates 400th Memorial Mass for Takayama, who was proposed for sainthood by the Manila Archdiocese in 16130 — only 15 years after Ukon died a Manila Catholic.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”

Writing about the “greatest Japanese missionary in the 16th century,” Fr. Anton Witwer, SJ, Jesuit General Postulator who promoted Takayama’s Cause, said: “Four hundred years have passed since the death of Justus Takayama Ukon (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila), remembered and revered in Japan not only as a martyr, but also as a great witness to the Christian faith, which he practiced in connection with the mission of the Society of Jesus.

“He was the greatest Japanese missionary of the sixteenth century because of how he lived the Christian faith with the tenacity, rigor and loyalty that were typical of the Japanese people, promoting the inculturation of Christianity through the witness of his life, which eventually led to his dying while in exile. Already at the time of his death people were talking of him as though he were a saint.

“His witness of faith was, and is, convincing. Just as his life has led many to the Gospel, so can the blood of his martyrdom continue to be “the seed of Christians.”#

San Lorenzi Ruiz (1594 Manila-1637 Nagasaki)
San Lorenzi Ruiz (1594 Manila-1637 Nagasaki)

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro, PhD/History
Takayama Trustee

‘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

Latin Hymn ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ Was Battle Hymn of 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki (1597)

►Aside from ‘Te Deum Laudamus,’ Japanese Christians chanted other Latin hymns: “Ave Maria,” “Adoro Te Devote,” “Regina Caeli,” “Pange Lingua Gloriosi,” “Veni Creator Spiritus,” and “Salve Regina.”

As the 26 Martyrs were marched along the long road from Kyoto to Nagasaki, they chanted the “Te Deum Laudamus” (“Thee, O God, we praise”) over and over again — Jesuits and Franciscans alike. If he had been the 27th Martyr, Lord Justus Ukon Takayama (1552 Osaka-1615 Manila) would have added his full-throated voice to the plain chant.

But, alas, Dom Justus missed his chance at martyrdom, because his name, which originally topped the list, had been crossed out by Lord Maeda Toshiie (who, since 1588, had been the liege lord of Ukon) and Lord Ishida Mitsunari, daimyo of Sawayama in Ōmi Province.

Lord Takayama had been stripped of his feudal domain in Akashi in 1587, and was now a guest general (Kyakusho) in Lord Maeda’s employ.

The two daimyos calculated that the untimely execution of Ukon, the foremost Christian ex-daimyo, might cause complications they could not foresee.

Beginning Jan. 10, 1597, the 26 martyrs — with their left ears cut off — were marched barefoot in the snow from Kyoto to Nagasaki – via the scenic route. They walked about 620 miles (1,000 km) over the course of 26 days. They left Sakai and went to Osaka, Hyogo, Akashi, Himeji, Akaho, Okayama, Omichi, Mihara, Hiroshima, Shimonoseki. They traveled by boat from Shimonoseki to Okura and they walked to Hakata, Karatsu and Sonogi. Traveling by boat from Sonogi, they went to Tokitsu and they walked to Nagasaki.

On Feb. 5, 1597, Japan’s 26 proto-martyrs – three Japanese Jesuits, and 17 Japanese members of the Third Order of St. Francis, including three young boys, and four Spaniards, one Mexican, one Portuguese from India (all of whom were Franciscan missionaries – were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki on the orders of the Lord Chancellor (Kampaku) Hideyoshi Toyotomi (豐臣 秀吉/豊臣 秀吉, 1537-1598).

Two proto-martyrs stand out:

💥 St. Paul Miki (1562-1597), son of a Kirishitan Samurai in the service of Lord Takayama in Takatsuki Castle. Paul studied at a Jesuit seminary at Arima, built in 1580 beneath Hinoe Castle, repurposed by Lord Takayama from a Buddhist monastery. The original décor was left largely unchanged.

💥 St. Fr. Pedro Bautista (1542-1597), Father Provincial of the Franciscans of the Philippines and founder of the San Francisco Monastery in Quezon City, had arrived as the Philippine Ambassador to Hideyoshi’s court in 1593, and was royally received. With his diplomatic chores done, he was permitted to remain in Japan to set up a Franciscan missionary outpost.

When Hideyoshi lost his temper over steady advances of Christianity, he ordered the execution of “the Manila friars” (meaning, Fr. Bautista and his confreres) and other Japanese Christians to deter the spread of Christianity. He prescribed crucifixion as the method of death, in grim parody of Christ’s own death.

These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears.

‘Te Deum’ in Manila Cathedral

When the first Japanese exile boat with 350 Catholics deported from Japan, led by Lord Takayama, arrived in Manila after a perilous 43-day voyage, they were grateful for the new lease on life they were graced with. On the late afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614, the exiles / refugees / migrants visited the newly consecrated  Manila Catholic (III) – inaugurated just 16 days earlier on Dec. 5, 1614 — and sang a “Te Deum.” It was the battle hymn they had not been able to sing during the typhoon that wrecked their voyage.

It was an ancient hymn of deliverance written in A.D. 387. It survives to this day largely through the devotion of Benedictine monks.

Lord Takayama (a.k.a. “Dom Justo Ucondono”) did not know what the future held for him, but he was now newly arrived in a land where he and his family could now practice freely their Catholic Faith.#

Dr. ERNESTO A. DE PEDRO, PhD
Managing Trustee, Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama

On Record: Pope Remembers Beatification of ‘Christ’s Samurai’ in Japan

►Justus Takayama Ukon, Japanese Feudal Lord Who Gave Up Every Privilege and Accepted Exile to Follow the Gospel

►►(By FEDERICO CENCI | FEBRUARY 8, 2017) —  “Yesterday, in Osaka, Japan, Dom Justo Takayama Ukon, loyal Japanese layman, who was martyred in Manila in 1615 was beatified.”

Pope Francis remembered during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall this morning, noting: “Rather than compromise, he renounced honors and prosperity and accepted humiliation and exile.

“He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel; for this, he is a wonderful example of strength in the faith and dedication in charity,” Francis said.

Samurai of Christ

Justus Takayama Ukon, a samurai at the service of Christ, was persecuted for following the Gospel in 16th century Japan. Married and father of five children, he became a Christian at 11 years of age, when his father converted — taking the name Darius and giving his son the name Justus — thanks to the preaching of Jesuit missionaries.

There is a saying in Japan that recurs every year, on the remembrance of the dropping of the atomic bomb: “Hiroshima screams, Nagasaki prays – protests in the first city hit by U.S. aviation, composed liturgies in the second.”

Small Minority of Catholics in Japan

This is a fact that attests to the presence in the country of the Rising Sun of a “small” Christian “flock,” which for centuries was able to endure persecutions, offering a testimony dedicated to dignified silence.

This seraphic attitude is summarized in the expression of the statue at Osaka representing Ukon – a warrior with a proud look and with hair gathered behind his head and in his hands, a sword surmounted by a crucifix.

In order not to abjure his Christian faith, years later Ukon was willing to lose all the recognition he had obtained … and to die in exile. The Takayama Tomoteru family was powerful — lords of the Sawa castle and of the whole region of Takatsuki

They were individuals rich in money and warrior virtues. Ukon, like all his relatives, practiced bushido, the “life of the sword,” which combines military discipline and very rigid moral norms. He was also a daimyo of imperial appointment, hence he had the right to contract a private army.

The Japan in which he lived (about the year 1580) was led by the Chancellor Toyotomi Hideyoshi, known also as the “second unifier of the homeland.” The first Christian preachers also disembarked at that time, Jesuits led by Saint Francis Xavier.

They succeeded in bringing many people to Christ, primarily powerful samurai families, especially in the Nagasaki area. In 1587, however, Hideyoshi decided to limit what was described as the “religion of the West.”

Torture, extortions, abjurations and violence pushed the majority of the Christian neophytes to abandon the faith. Ukon and his father, however, resisted. Willing to face death and humiliation but not to renounce Christianity, they remitted terrains and military honors in the hands of the Chancellor.

They faced a life of hardship until 1614, when the Shogun decided to ban Christianity altogether. At that point, Ukon chose life in exile and, together with 350 other Christians, went to Manila. In the Philippines, he was supported by local Catholics, European Jesuits and Spain, the colonial power. He died at Manila just 44 days after his arrival, on February 4, 1615. His Catholic funeral was decorated with the highest military honors.

Legacy of Dom Justus Takayama

In Japan, his homeland, Ukon aleft a trace that endures up to today. Before going into exile, he contributed to the foundation of several seminaries in the Nagasaki area, small communities that had the task to keep the Christian flame lighted in the course of the centuries. Nagasaki is, still today, the area in which the greatest number of followers of Christ is concentrated.

The memory of Justus Takayama Ukon always remained alive in them. Already in the 17th century, thanks to the clergy of Manila, an attempt was made to beatify “Christ’s samurai.” However, because of the isolationist policy of the Tokugawa shogunate, it was impossible to enter into possession of the necessary documents for the canonical investigation…

Beatification Rites in Osaka

Finally yesterday, Justus’ beatification was able to become a reality. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, celebrated the Mass at Osaka. AsiaNews reported that he described the new Blessed as “an extraordinary witness of the Christian faith in difficult times of opposition and persecution.”

Justus is the first individual to receive the honors of the altar in the history of Japanese Catholicism. Japan has in fact 42 Saints and 393 Blesseds, all martyrs of the Edo period (1603-1867) and all celebrated as a group.

These martyrs bless the Japanese Church with their “splendid witness,” said Cardinal Amato. A splendor that shines in the honor of Justus Takayama Ukon, “Christ’s samurai.”#

Retrieved by: Adelaida M. de Pedro
Auxiliary, Missionary Disciples for a New Evangelization (MDNE)

 

 

Pope Francis’ Address to Japan’s Bishops, during his Apostolic Journey to Japan (Nov. 23-26, 2019)

Pope Francis’ Address to Japan’s Bishops, during his Apostolic Journey to Japan (Nov. 23-26, 2019)

Dear Brothers,

I am very grateful for the gift of visiting Japan and for the welcome you have given me. I especially thank Archbishop Takami for his words on behalf of the entire Catholic community in this country. Here in your presence, in this first official meeting, I want to greet all the members of your communities: laypeople, catechists, priests, religious, consecrated persons, seminarians. I also want to extend my embrace and prayers to all the Japanese people at this time marked by the enthronement of the new Emperor and the beginning of the Reiwa era.

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands. Many years have passed since that missionary impulse, whose realization has been long in coming. Today the Lord gives me the opportunity to come among you as a missionary pilgrim in the footsteps of great witnesses to the faith. Four hundred and seventy years have passed since the arrival of Saint Francis Xavier in Japan, which marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in this land. In his memory, I want to join you in thanking the Lord for all those who, over the centuries, have dedicated themselves to implanting the Gospel and serving the Japanese people with great tenderness and love. This dedication has given the Japanese Church a unique face. I think of the martyrs 💥Saint Paul MIKI and his companions, and of 💥Blessed Justo Ukon TAKAYAMA, who in the midst of many trials bore witness up to his death. Such self-sacrifice for the sake of keeping the faith alive amid persecution helped the small Christian community to develop, grow strong and bear fruit. We can also think of those “hidden Christians” of the Nagasaki region, who kept the faith for generations, thanks to baptism, prayer, and catechesis. Authentic domestic Churches that shone forth in this land, perhaps without even realizing it, as reflections of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The path taken by the Lord shows us how his presence “plays out” in the daily life of his faithful people, who seek ways to keep his memory alive. His is a silent presence, a living memory that makes us realize that wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is there, with the strength and tenderness of his Spirit (cf. Mt 18:20). The DNA of your communities is marked by this witness, an antidote against despair, that points out the path they must follow. You are a living Church that has been preserved by invoking the Lord’s name and contemplating how he guided you through the midst of persecution.

Faithful sowing, the witness of martyrs and patient expectation of the fruits that the Lord gives in his time, have characterized your apostolic approach to Japanese culture. As a result, over the years you have developed a form of ecclesial presence that is for the most part much appreciated by Japanese society, thanks to your many contributions to the common good. This important chapter in the history of your country and of the universal Church has now been recognized with the designation of the churches and villages of Nagasaki and Amakusa as World Cultural Heritage sites. But above all, as living memorials of the soul of your communities, a fruitful hope for every form of evangelization.

The motto of my Apostolic Journey is “Protect All Life”. This could well symbolize our own ministry as bishops. A bishop is called by the Lord from among his people and then given back to them as a pastor called to protect all life. This determines in great measure what our aims and goals should be.

The mission in these lands was marked by a powerful search for inculturation and dialogue, which allowed the formation of new models, independent of those developed in Europe. We know that, from the beginning, literature, theatre, music and various types of instruments were employed, for the most part in the Japanese language. This is a sign of the love that those first missionaries felt for these lands. Protecting all life means, first of all, having a contemplative gaze capable of loving the life of the entire people entrusted to you, and recognizing it, above all, as the Lord’s gift. “Only that which is loved can be saved. Only that which is embraced can be transformed” (Address at the Vigil with Young People, Panama, 26 January 2019). An incarnational principle that can help us view each life as a gratuitous gift, apart from other valid yet secondary considerations. Protecting all life and proclaiming the Gospel are not separate or opposed; rather each appeals to, and requires, the other. Both entail being careful and vigilant about anything that could hinder, in these lands, the integral development of the people entrusted to the light of the Gospel of Jesus.

We know that the Church in Japan is small and Catholics are in a minority, but this must not diminish your commitment to evangelization. In your particular situation, the strongest and clearest word you can speak is that of a humble, daily witness and openness to dialogue with other religious traditions. The hospitality and care you show to the many foreign workers who represent more than half of Japan’s Catholics, not only serve as a witness to the Gospel within Japanese society but also attest to the universality of the Church. This demonstrates that our union with Christ is stronger than any other bond or badge of identity, and can enter into and become part of every situation.

A Church of witness can speak with greater freedom, especially when addressing pressing issues of peace and justice in our world. I will soon visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where I will offer prayers for the victims of the catastrophic bombing of these two cities, and echo your own prophetic calls for nuclear disarmament. I wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history, as well as the victims of the triple disaster. Their continued sufferings are an eloquent reminder of our human and Christian duty to assist those who are troubled in body and spirit and to offer to all the Gospel message of hope, healing, and reconciliation. Evil has no preferences; it does not care about people’s background or identity. It simply bursts in with its destructive force, as was the case recently with the devastating typhoon that caused so many casualties and material damage. Let us entrust to the Lord’s mercy those who have died, their families and all who have lost their homes and material possessions. May we never be afraid to pursue, here and throughout the world, a mission capable of speaking out and defending all life as a precious gift from the Lord.

For this reason, I encourage your efforts to ensure that the Catholic community in Japan offers a clear witness to the Gospel in the midst of the larger society. The Church’s highly respected educational apostolate represents a great resource for evangelization and engagement with larger intellectual and cultural currents; the quality of its contribution will naturally depend on the fostering of its distinctively Catholic identity and mission.

All of us are aware of the grave problems affecting people in your communities whose lives are marked, for various reasons, by loneliness, despair, and isolation. The increase in the rates of suicide in your cities, as well as bullying (ijime) and various kinds of neediness, are creating new forms of alienation and spiritual disorientation. Since these affect the young in particular, I ask you to pay special attention to them and their needs. Try to create spaces in which the culture of efficiency, performance and success can become open to a culture of generous and selfless love, capable of offering to everyone, and not only to those who have “made it”, the possibility of a happy and successful life. With their zeal, ideas, and energy, young people – when well-formed and accompanied – can be a deep source of hope to their contemporaries and bear vital witness to Christian charity. A creative, inculturated and imaginative quest to live the Gospel message can have a powerful effect on so many lives thirsting for compassion.

I recognize that the harvest is great and the laborers are few, so I encourage you to seek out and develop a mission capable of involving families and of promoting a formation that can reach people where they are, always taking into account the specifics of each situation. The starting point for every apostolate is the concrete place in which people find themselves, with their daily routines and occupations. It is there that we must reach the souls of our cities, workplaces, and universities, in order to accompany the faithful entrusted to us with the Gospel of compassion and mercy.

I thank you once more for the opportunity you have offered me to visit your local Churches and to celebrate together with them. Peter wants to confirm you in faith, but he also comes to walk in, and be renewed by, the footsteps of so many martyrs and witnesses to the faith. Please pray that the Lord may grant me this grace.

I ask the Lord to bless you and, with you, your communities.#

~ POPE FRANCIS, Apostolic Nunciature, Tokyo, November 23, 2019
[01856-EN.01] [Original text: Spanish] © Libreria Editrice Vatican

The Discovery of the ‘Hidden Christians’ of Japan

(By Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ) — After the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in Japan (1549), the Catholic Church grew rapidly, and the faith was accepted by people of all states of life. Those who ruled were displeased and responded with persecution, leading to tens of thousands of martyrs giving up their lives. Many Christian communities chose to go underground to preserve their faith. It was not easy to become underground Christians; it was another form of the way of the cross for the sake of the faith, as they had to live in fear and adopt a Buddhist-like style of life to avoid raising the suspicion of officials.

The missionaries who then arrived in Japan strived to foster the local Church. The Christians strengthened their unity through associations such as the Misericordia Confraternity. The confraternities had strict rules and the members were very much committed. For instance, parents who did not respect their children’s freedom concerning marriage and people who had bad drinking habits could not become members.

When the persecution began, the Christians constantly prepared for martyrdom through instructions such as “Maruchirio no Kokoro-e (How to face Martyrdom).” Some of these instructions have been preserved, so we can confirm that not only they made use of them, but also that they kept them safe from the officials who were always checking for any Christian materials.

The reaction of the persecutors

On seeing the attitude of the martyrs and the response of the faithful when the persecution began (1587), its perpetrators understood that it would be difficult to wipe out the Christians completely. An example of their awareness is contained in a passage from Shumon Sensaku Kokoro-mochi no koto (Guide for Interrogation of Religious Beliefs), written in approx.1640  at the request of Lord Inoue of Chikugo, who was in charge of the crackdown on Christians: “If the husband is Christian, so is the wife; if the child is Christian, so are the parents; if the parents are Christian, so too the child; generally, 80 percent of them would also be Christian. Korean Christians especially, men or women, are deeply committed to their faith, and women in particular have deeply rooted faith.” We can see that not only the Japanese Christians, but also the Koreans in Japan preserved their faith.

A public edict from the government, made known everywhere in the country, declared in one article: “Those who hand over Christians who have returned to their faith shall be rewarded with 300 silver coins.” Christians who returned to their faith are those who, after rejecting their faith at one point, later returned to it. These people intended to keep their faith to the end. This clause  was added to the others and it shows that the capture of these returnees was worth a lot of money. We can see that it was a known fact among the authorities that there were those who kept their Christian faith, even during their interrogation which involved the ceremony of stepping on holy images (fumie). This fact tells us of the presence of many underground Christians at the time this clause was added to the edict issued in the 1650s.

The faith of the Christians was so strong that it forced the Tokugawa shogunate to realize that the tactics of public flogging used under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s regime (1587) had reverse effects and so they had to change the method of persecution.

Plans to send missionaries to Japan

In 1644 the last remaining priest in Japan underwent martyrdom. He was Fr. Konishi Mansho, a religious missionary. Thereafter, priests could not set foot in Japan for more than 200 years. It is worth mentioning that the Church continued to plan the sending of missionaries to Japan. Fr. Antonius Thomas, SJ, (1644-1709) who worked in India and Macau wrote in a letter dated September 18, 1679: “Notwithstanding a lack of understanding in Rome (on the part of the Superior General), one confrere has been looking for several years for a way to enter Japan.”

In the same year, Fr. Thomas sent a report addressed to the Superior General entitled “The main reasons for sending expeditions to Japan.” In the report, he provides detailed studies and proposes some strategies. Fr. Thomas also wanted to set up a study center in the Mariana Islands to form missionaries to send to Japan, as well as proposing to reach Hokkaido by entering Japan from Russia.

These plans were never realized, but in 1708, a diocesan priest, Fr. Sidotti, arrived in Japan and was arrested shortly after arrival, becoming a martyr on December 15, 1715. Sidotti’s heroic action must have encouraged the hidden Christians and given them hope for the future. Pope Benedict XIV promulgated a decree on February 24, 1748, announcing Francis Xavier as the Patron of Japan and turned the Universal Church’s attention to the country.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples asked the bishop of Nanking in a letter of February 11, 1781, to “explore possibilities of re-entering Japan,” and in a letter of May 28, 1803, the Congregation sent to the Jesuits in Russia a “Letter of mandate for entry into Japan.” In neither of these cases did the missionaries ever arrive, but the facts show that the Universal Church never forgot the Christians in Japan.

As we have seen, the link between the Japanese Church and the Universal Church was never broken. When eventually the missionaries arrived, the wider Church was thrilled and overjoyed by the “discovery of the faithful” in Nagasaki (March 17, 1865). We can see that this event was not unilateral or the result of mere chance, but an encounter that had been prepared by longing expectation on both sides.

The faith that the French missionaries discovered

The underground Christians of Urakami village (Nagasaki City) risked their lives to visit Oura Church and tell the first priest they had ever met, a foreigner, Fr. Petitjean, that “Our hearts are the same as yours.” Moreover, upon seeing for the first time a statue of Mary, they exclaimed: “Look, it’s Holy Mary, she is holding Infant Jesus,” revealing that the hearts of the hidden Christians were already well prepared.

For their part the missionaries welcomed and accepted the underground Christians. Subsequently, the missionaries interviewed them for a lengthy period of time to examine their faith life. They did a thorough investigation to see whether the faith of these Christians was still intact and at one with the teaching of the Catholic Church introduced by the missionaries in the 17th century, if the baptisms were valid, and so on. For instance, they spelled out in an alphabet more than 20 examples of words used for baptism among the Christians, confirming their meaning with the locals, in order to investigate the connection between Catholic teaching and the hidden Christians (Compiled Letters of Msgr. Petitjean).

After consulting with the Church leaders in Rome, they reached a conclusion that, in spite of some outward differences, the faith of the hidden Christians (with a few exceptions)  followed the orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church. Since in some cases they asked for certain conditions to be met for a valid baptism, it is without doubt that the missionaries did their investigation very carefully.

The legacy of the different religious congregations

The French missionaries who arrived in Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) found that the characteristics of the different religious congregations who brought Christianity in the 17th century had influenced the way the Christians lived their faith. Fr. Petitjean wrote in his letter of January 29, 1866, “We do not exaggerate when we say that the old rivalry had created sects among the Christians. Even after more than 200 years, the differences have survived.

In some villages, each group consists of around a hundred people, and the groups seem as though they are different religions. One group would fast on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but another group would fast only on the weekends. Due to using different calendars, they celebrate Easter on different dates and one group does not recognize the other. There are the Reucitans, the Patarans and the Doisikos, each representing the spiritual children of the Franciscans, the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Their differences are not crucial, thank God. Actually, they recognize us as the successors of the missionaries of the olden times. These differences which are the legacy of past conflicts should disappear in time, and everyone will be united in the same direction.”

We can see the rivalry among the religious congregations was also handed down, but at the same time we can confirm that as regards the dogma the conflict was not definitive, and they shared the orthodox teaching of the Church. Not only the proper faith of the Catholic Church but much of the spirituality of different religious congregations had also been handed down. The holy images and other religious objects kept by the Christians show the tradition and emphases of the different congregations.

A book that sustained the hidden Christians

After his first encounter with the hidden Christians and before starting the interviews investigating them, Fr. Petitjean wrote about a book that the Christians treasured: “A book on contrition published in 1603 is one of the best among other books we have found. It almost seems as though the authors had predicted there would be a long period without priests in the Japanese Church. This book is an example of a comprehensive and clear instruction and presentation of the dogma. Understanding and practice of its contents should have been a powerful support for souls who sinned against God after baptism” (Letter of June 30, 1865).

It is significant that Fr. Petitjean and the other missionaries highly appreciated the “Manual for Contrition” and asserted that the book sustained the spiritual life of the hidden Christians. So, in spite of some superficial conflicts that remained over the years, faith itself and the way to nurture faith had been handed down.

“Spiritual Ascetic Training” (a loose translation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and other devotional works, in which the “Manual for Contrition” was also included) was also widely read among the faithful since the early 17th century. It is known that it was the favorite book of the feudal Lord Takayama Ukon and of Lady Hosokawa Gracia, an aristocrat who converted to Christianity, and the martyrs held it in their hands in their final moments.

I will quote a passage from “Spiritual Ascetic Training” to give an example of its appeal: “With a short orasho (prayer), letting your heart rise, letting out a breath, make it a habit to offer your undivided heart to Deus (God) frequently. This is similar to adding  wood fuel from time to time in order not to let the fire go out. You should take to heart that this is ascetic training in order not to dampen down the fire of devotion that burns in the orasho.” As we can see in this quoted passage, it is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and is fleshed out and made easy to understand.

The discovery of the Japanese Christians was a history-making event, but shortly afterward (1867), persecution began again, and the Christians who confessed their faith openly were exiled to different locations. More than 600 of these Christians died in exile. Pope Pius Ⅸ received information on the situation from the missionaries in Japan and sent a letter in 1868 to encourage the Christians. In this it is obvious that the pope does not dwell on the outward expressions of faith of the discovered Christians, but highly appreciates and justifies their perseverance. Finally, in 1873 the Meiji Government removed the prohibition and little by little the exiled Christians who survived were able to go back to their homes.

Conclusion

When we look back on its history, the Japanese Church with its martyrs and hidden Christians spared no sacrifice for the sake of the faith. If we consider that our Church today experiences the invisible persecution of materialism, we can be inspired by our predecessors’ love and adherence to the Church that nurtured them. These Christians who handed down their faith for seven generations without a priest are appealing to us who are having difficulty today to hand down our faith even to the next generation.

I feel that we are urged not to be afraid of conflicts or arguments in order to adhere to the faith we have received. Far from the featureless, obscure ways in which we tend to build up our society today, these Japanese Christians must have known that in deepening the faith and its features, they received through this faith a spirituality by means of which one can be in union with God.#

Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ
Father Provincial, Jesuit Province of Japan