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Justo Takayama

Justo Takayama Ukon

Illustration of Justo Takayama
BornTakayama Hikogorō
c. 1552
Haibara, Nara, Sengoku Period, Ashikaga Shogunate
Died3 or 5 February 1615 (aged 62–63)
Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines, Viceroyalty of New Spain
Cause of deathFever
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified7 February 2017, Osaka-jō Hall, Osaka, Japan by Cardinal Angelo Amato (on behalf of Pope Francis)
Major shrineManila Cathedral, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines
Feast3 February
AttributesSword, crucifix, samurai robes, martyr's palm

Justo Takayama Ukon (ジュスト高山右近), born Takayama Hikogorō (高山彦五郎) and also known as Dom Justo Takayama (c. 1552/1553 - 5 February 1615) was a Japanese Catholic Kirishitan daimyō and samurai who lived during the Sengoku period that witnessed anti-Catholic sentiment.[1][2]

Takayama had been baptized into the Catholic Church in 1564 when he was twelve, though he later became disenfranchised from his religion due to his actions as a samurai. He eventually renewed his faith after a coming-of-age ritual near the age of 20. He renounced his status to devote himself to Christianity and was exiled to Manila, where he lived until his death two months later.[3][4]

His cause for sainthood began after his death and he was declared a Servant of God. Pope Francis beatified him on 21 January 2016; the celebration occurred on 7 February 2017 in Osaka with Cardinal Angelo Amato presiding on the pope's behalf.[5]


Dom Justo Takayama was the eldest son (thus the heir) of Takayama Tomoteru who was the lord of the Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province.[4] His childhood name was Hikogorō (彦五郎).

In 1564, his father converted to Roman Catholicism after meeting with Portuguese missionaries. Hikogorō was baptized as Justo (Latin: Iustus; Japanese: ジュスト or ユスト, based on Portuguese or Latin pronunciation). After his coming-of-age celebration his name was changed to Shigetomo (重友). However he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近), "Ukon" being a title. Portuguese and Spanish Europeans also referred to him as Dom/Don Justo "Ucondono" (from 右近殿, Ukon-dono).[3]

In 1571, he fought in an important and successful battle as part of his coming-of-age ritual which culminated in a duel to the death with a compatriot whom he killed; however, Takayama received grievous wounds in the process and during his convalescence realized he had cared little about Catholicism.[3]

He 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. He managed to acquire Takatsuki Castle (in Takatsuki, Osaka) and participated in the Ishiyama Hongan-ji War (1570-1580) under the warlord Oda Nobunaga. He also fought under the daimyō Toyotomi Hideyoshi during his rule's earlier times, participating in the Battle of Yamazaki (1582), Battle of Shizugatake (1583) and Siege of Kagoshima (1587).[1][3][5][6]

During their domination of Takatsuki region, he and his father pushed their policies as kirishitan daimyōs. Several of their subjects converted to Catholicism under their influence. During his reign, Takayama destroyed numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in both Takatsuki and Akashi.[7]

However, Hideyoshi became hostile towards the Christian faith and in 1587 ordered the expulsion of all missionaries and that all Christian daimyōs should renounce their faith. While several daimyō obeyed this order and renounced Roman Catholicism, Justo proclaimed that he would not give up his faith and would rather give up his land and all that he owned.[4]

Takayama lived under the protection of Maeda Toshiie[8] until 1614 when Tokugawa Ieyasu (the ruler at the time) prohibited the Christian faith which resulted in Takayama's expulsion from Japan. On 8 November 1614, with 300 other 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.[1][4]

The governor Juan de Silva wished to provide him with an income to support him and his relations but he declined this offer saying he was no longer in a position to offer his services in exchange for income nor did he wish to act like a lord.[5]

The colonial government of the Spanish Philippines offered to invade Japan and overthrow Tokugawa in order to protect Japanese Christians and place him in a position of great power and influence. Takayama declined to participate and even opposed the plan.


After suffering from a violent fever, he died of illness at midnight on 3 or 5 February 1615, 44 days after arriving in Manila.[1][3] The Spanish government gave him a Christian burial with full military honors befitting a daimyō. His remains were buried in the Jesuit church there. He is the only daimyō buried on Philippine soil.


Plaza Dilao, The center of the plaza is dominated by a statue of Dom Justo Takayama, who settled here after he was exiled from Japan in 1615.

At Plaza Dilao in Paco, Manila, the last vestige of the old town where around 3000 Japanese immigrants lived after the expulsion, a statue of Takayama 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 Takayama 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 (CCS) 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. According to Cardinal Angelo Amato, the beatification would have occurred in 2015 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.[3]

Historical consultants met to discuss the cause on 10 December 2013, and the theologians met on 20 May 2014 to discuss and vote on the cause. The cardinals and bishop members of the CCS met on 18 June 2015 to make a final decision on the cause before it could go to Pope Francis for his approval, and they had to meet again on 12 January 2016.[9] Pope Francis approved Takayama's beatification on 21 January 2016; it was celebrated in Osaka on 7 February 2017 with Cardinal Amato presiding on the pope's behalf.[10][11]

In NHK's Taiga drama (an annual historical television series) for 2014, Gunshi Kanbei, Ikuta Tōma assumed the role of Takayama.

In 2016, a documentary about Takayama Ukon's life, entitled Ukon il samurai, was released.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Blessed Iustus Takayama Ukon". Saints SQPN. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Justo Takayama Ukon" (in Japanese). Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon" (in Italian). Santi e Beati. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "Takayama Ukon: The Catholic Samurai on the Path to Sainthood". Aleteia. Aleteia SAS. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b c "Takayama Ukon, "Christ's samurai," to be beatified". Asia News. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  6. ^ Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1334-1615. Stanford: Stanford University Press. pp. 311–313. ISBN 0804705259.
  7. ^ Rambelli, Fabio; Reinders, Eric (2012). Buddhism and Iconoclasm in East Asia: A History. A&C Black. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-4411-4509-3.
  8. ^ "日本大百科全書(ニッポニカ)「高山右近」の解説". Kotobank. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  9. ^ "Samurai's cause for beatification forwarded to Rome". Catholic News Agency. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Pope approves beatification of warlord Takayama Ukon". The Japan Times. The Japan Times Ltd. 23 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Japanese Christian warlord Takayama Ukon beatified". The Japan Times. The Japan Times Ltd. 7 February 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  12. ^ "The story of the Japanese samurai who could be declared a saint". Rome Reports. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
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