Dom Justo Takayama

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Iustus Takayama Ukon
Servant of God
Born c. 1552
Haibara, Sengoku Japan
Died 5 February 1615 (aged 62–63)
Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
In this Japanese name, the family name is Takayama.

Takayama Ukon (高山右近?) or Dom Justo Takayama (or Iustus Takayama Ukon or Hikogoro Shigetomo) (1552 – 5 February 1615) was a Japanese kirishitan daimyo and samurai who followed Christianity during the Sengoku period of Japan.

Born in Haibara-cho in Nara, he abandoned his status to devote himself to his Christian faith and he died in Manila with a reputation for holiness. His cause for sainthood has commenced and he is referred to as a Servant of God. Reports in 2014 indicated that he would be beatified sometime in 2015 but 2016 will be when he will be beatified pending papal approval towards the end of 2015.


Early life[edit]

Takayama Justo was born to be the heir of Takayama Tomoteru, the lord of Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province. He had one sister and two brothers. His name as a child was Hikogorō (彦五郎). At the age of 12 in 1564, his father converted to Catholicism and Hikogorō was also baptized as Justo.

After his coming-of-age ceremony, Hikogorō was named Shigetomo (重友). However, he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近). The name Ukon comes from the government post he pretended, the officer of Ukonoefu (this was usual practice among samurai of the time).[1]

At some point, he married and went on to have three sons and one daughter.

Justo and his father fought through the turbulent age to secure their position as a daimyo. They managed to acquire Takatsuki Castle (Takatsuki, Osaka) under the warlord Oda Nobunaga and also under daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at least in the first years of his rule. During their domination of Takatsuki Region, Justo and his father Dario pushed their policy as Kirishitan daimyo (Christian daimyo) forward. Many of his fellows converted under his influence.[1]

However, Toyotomi Hideyoshi grew against Christianity and, in 1587, he ordered the expulsion of missionaries. While many daimyo obeyed this order and discarded Catholicism, Justo proclaimed that he would maintain his religion and rather give up his land and property.[1]

Ukon in Manila (17th-century painting).


Justo lived under the protection of his friends for several decades, but following the 1614 prohibition of Christianity by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of the time, he was expelled from Japan. On 8 November 1614, together with 300 Japanese Christians he peacefully left his home country from Nagasaki.[2] He arrived at Manila on 21 December and was greeted warmly by the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos there.[1][3]

Death and legacy[edit]

The colonial government of Spanish Philippines offered their assistance in overthrowing the Japanese government by an invasion to protect Japanese Catholics. Justo declined to participate and he opposed the plan, but he died of illness just 40 days afterwards.[1]

When he died in 1615, the Spanish government gave him with a Christian burial, replete with full military honors befitting a Daimyo. He is the first Daimyo to be buried in Philippine soil.[1][4]

At that time, the Spaniards referred to the Paco area as Plaza Dilao (from the Tagalog diláw, "yellow") because of the more than 3,000 Japanese who resided there. The square, now a public park beside Quirino Avenue in the City of Manila, is the last vestige of the old town of Paco.[1] There is a statue of Takayama in the square, depicting him in traditional samurai garb and a topknot. He is carrying a sheathed katana that is pointed downward, upon which hangs a figure of a crucified Jesus.[1]


Takayama is currently in consideration for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church with a protocol number of 1241 assigned by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. His cause of sainthood started at a diocesan level which resulted in the validation of the process on 10 June 1994.

There had been failed attempts to start the cause in the past. The first attempt came in the 17th century by the Manila clergy, but failed due to the isolationist policy of Japan which prevented the collection of the necessary documentation. The second attempt in 1965 failed due to several errors being made.[5]

His current title is Servant of God and the Positio was submitted in August 2013. Despite this his beatification has been approved and it is possible that it shall occur in 2015 according to Angelo Amato on 21 October 2014. 2015 marks four centenaries after his death.

Historical consultants met to discuss the cause in December 2013 and the cardinal and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints shall meet in mid 2015 to make a final decision on the cause before it is taken to Pope Francis for papal approval.[6]

A committee approved the beatification cause to proceed after a meeting on 18 June 2015. It is expected that it will go to the pope in December for approval with the beatification to take place in 2016 in Japan.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

In the 2014 NHK Taiga drama dubbed Gunshi Kanbei, Takayama Ukon was played by Ikuta Tōma.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Samurai’s Cause for Beatification Forwarded to Rome". National Catholic Register. February 5, 2014.
  2. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth (6 February 2015). "Justo Takayama Ukon". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Japanese in the Philippines? Taksan-taksan!". Negros Chronicle. February 16, 2014.
  4. ^ "TAKAYAMA UKON: PHILIPPINES’ THIRD SAINT?". Negros Chronicle. February 02, 2014.
  5. ^ "The Japanese Church ready to celebrate Takayama Ukon, "samurai of Christ"". Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ukon Takayama, the 'Samurai of Christ', to be beatified in 2015". Asia News. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  7. ^ "Exiled Japanese Christian feudal lord to be beatified". The Mainichi. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 

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