Dom Justo Takayama
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Iustus Takayama Ukon
Statue in Shiroato Park.
Haibara, Sengoku Japan
|Died||3 or 5 February 1615 (aged 62–63)
Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||7 February 2017, Osaka-jō Hall, Kyōbashi, Osaka, Japan by Cardinal Angelo Amato (in his capacity as papal legate for Pope Francis)|
Blessed Iustus Takayama Ukon (高山右近) or Dom Justo Takayama (born Hikogorō Shigetomo) (1552 – 3 or 5 February 1615) was a Japanese Roman Catholic kirishitan daimyō and samurai who lived during the Sengoku period that witnessed anti-religious sentiment. He abandoned his status to devote himself to his faith and was exiled to Manila where he lived a life of holiness until his death. Ukon had been baptized into the faith in 1564 when he was twelve though over time neglected his faith due to his actions as a samurai, though later rekindled his faith just after his coming-of-age ritual.
His cause for sainthood began when he was declared a Servant of God. Reports in 2014 indicated that he would be beatified sometime in 2015 but Pope Francis later approved it on 21 January 2016; the beatification celebration occurred on 7 February 2017 in Osaka with Cardinal Angelo Amato presiding over the beatification on the pope's behalf.
Hikogorō Shigetomo was born as the eldest (thus the heir) of six children to Takayama Tomoteru who was the lord of the Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province. He had one sister and two brothers. His name as a child was Hikogorō (彦五郎). In 1564 his father converted to Roman Catholicism and Hikogorō was baptized as Justo (or Iustus). After his coming-of-age celebration he was named as Shigetomo (重友). However he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近).
In 1571 he participated in an important and successful battle all as part of his coming-of-age ritual which culminated in a duel to the death with a compatriot whom he killed; but Ukon received grievous wounds in the process and during his convalescence realized he had cared little about the faith that had received him and had been imparted to him.
He later married in 1574 and went on to have three sons (two died as infants) and one daughter. Justo and his father fought through the turbulent age to secure their position as a daimyō and managed to acquire the Takatsuki Castle (in Takatsuki, Osaka) under the warlord Oda Nobunaga and also under the daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi during his rule's earlier times. During their domination of Takatsuki region he and his father pushed their policies as kirishitan daimyōs. There were several of their subjects who converted to the faith under their guiding influence. However in due course Hideyoshi became hostile towards the Christian faith and in 1587 ordered the expulsion of all missionaries and that all Christian daimyōs renounce their faith. While several daimyō obeyed this order and renounced Roman Catholicism it was he who proclaimed that he would not give up his faith and would rather give up his land and all that he owned.
Ukon lived under the protection of his allies for several decades but in 1614 Tokugawa Ieyasu (the ruler at the time) prohibited the Christian faith which witnessed Ukon's expulsion from Japan. On 8 November 1614 – with 300 Japanese Christians – he left his home from Nagasaki. He arrived at Manila on 11 December 1614 where he received a warm welcome from the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos. The governor Juan de Silva wished to provide him with an income to support him and his relations but he declined this offer since he said he was no longer in a position to offer his services in exchange for income but neither did he wish to act like a lord.
The colonial government of Spanish Philippines offered to overthrow the Japanese government through an invasion of Japan to protect the Japanese Christians. Ukon declined to participate and was even opposed to the plan. He died of illness at midnight on 3 or 5 February 1615 just a mere 40 days after having arrived in Manilla after having suffered from a violent fever. Upon his death the Spanish government gave him a Christian burial replete with full military honors befitting a daimyō. His remains were buried in the Jesuit church there and this made him the only daimyō to be buried on Philippine soil.
There is a public park beside Quirino Avenue in Manila which is the last vestige of the old town known as Paco where around 3000 Japanese immigrants lived after the expulsion. It is there that a statue of Ukon stands depicting him in the traditional samurai garb and a topknot. He is holding a sheathed katana that is pointed downward upon which hangs a figure of a crucified Jesus Christ. The University of Santo Tomas also has a statue in honor of Ukon in front of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex building.
His cause for sainthood started at a diocesan level which resulted in the validation of the process on 10 June 1994 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints were given all the boxes of documentation pertaining to the cause. The commencement to the cause saw him titled as a Servant of God. There had been failed attempts to start the cause in the past. The first attempt came in 1630 when the Manila priests decided to commence it but this failed due to the isolationist Japanese policies which prevented the collection of the documentation that was needed; the petition was presented but was rejected. The second attempt in 1965 failed due to several errors being made. In October 2012 a letter was presented to Pope Benedict XVI asking for the cause to be re-examined.
The Positio dossier was submitted in 2013 to the competent authorities in Rome for further assessment. It had been said that the beatification would have occurred in 2015 according to Cardinal Angelo Amato on 21 October 2014 to Japanese pilgrims; 2015 marked four centuries after his death but the formal beatification did not occur since it was close to completion at that stage. His cause was to meant to confirm - in a rather unorthodox case - that Ukon was a martyr because of the treatment he received and because he renounced all he had to pursue and profess his faith.
Historical consultants met to discuss the cause on 10 December 2013 while the theologians likewise met on 20 May 2014 to discuss and then vote on the cause. The cardinals and bishop members of the C.C.S. met on 18 June 2015 to make a final decision on the cause before could go to Pope Francis for his approval though had to meet again on 12 January 2016. Pope Francis – on 21 January 2016 – approved Ukon's beatification; it was celebrated in Osaka on 7 February 2017 with Cardinal Angelo Amato presiding on the pope's behalf.
In popular culture
In 2016 there was a documentary about Takayama Ukon's life entitled "Ukon il samurai" that was released.
- Persecution of Christians in Japan
- 26 Martyrs of Japan
- History of the Catholic Church in Japan
- Caius of Korea
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- "Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Takayama Ukon: The Catholic Samurai on the Path to Sainthood". Aleteia. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Takayama Ukon, "Christ's samurai," to be beatified". Asia News. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Samurai's cause for beatification forwarded to Rome". Catholic News Agency. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Pope approves beatification of warlord Takayama Ukon". The Japan Times. 23 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "Japanese Christian warlord Takayama Ukon beatified". 7 February 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- "The story of the Japanese samurai who could be declared a saint". Rome Reports. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.