Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 23 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Marianne Cope
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Takayama Ukon: The Catholic Samurai on the Path to Sainthood

Utagawa Toyonobu/Public Domain

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/12/16

Last January, Pope Francis signed the decree that allows for Takayama (Justo) Ukon’s beatification

In August 2013 the Japanese Bishops presented to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints a 400-page report including all the needed documents for the beatification of Takayama Ukon, a sixteenth-century Japanese daimyo (that is, a feudal lord) who chose to lose his privileges and property before giving up the Catholic faith he had embraced when he was 12 years old. In January of this year, Pope Francis signed the decree approving their request.

Takayama Ukon (or, if you prefer, Dom Justo Takayama, the name he assumed when baptized) was born to be the heir and lord of Castle Sawa, in the Japanese province of Yamato. His father, Lord Tomoteru, was a man of a deep religious mind, and had invited a Jesuit, Father Gaspare Di Lella, to his castle to debate the virtues of Buddhism and Christianity. It was 1564, fifteen years after the first Portuguese ships arrived in Japan and, with them, some Jesuits from St. Francis Xavier’s missions. Impressed by the Jesuit’s preaching, Lord Tomoteru and his family converted to Catholicism.

Justo and his father, who was baptized as Darío, fought serving Lord Nobunaga, who granted them permission to be Kirishitan Daimyo, that is, Christian feudal lords, with the right to practice and spread their faith if they wanted to do so. Many of Justo’s fellow samurai and serfs converted to Christianity.

However, Nobunaga’s successor, Totoyomi Hideyoshi, the great unifier of Japan, prohibited Christianity and exiled the missionaries. Many Kirishitan Daimyo obeyed Nobunaga’s orders and apostatized, but Takayama abandoned his title, land and possessions instead. With 300 other Japanese Christians Takayama was exiled on November 8, 1614, to the Philippines, where he died a few days later after being warmly received by the Spanish Jesuits.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
Philip Kosloski
When did Christians start praying the Hail Mary?
Cerith Gardiner
Quarterback Philip Rivers' retirement announcement reflects his s...
Philip Kosloski
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.