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Vatican investigates miracles of Japanese Christian samurai

Blessed Takayama Ukon

beibaoke | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 01/08/24

Christians of Japan's Edo period faced fierce persecution by the shogunate, and Christian samurai would hide cross motifs on their swords.
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Just before Christmas, on December 18, Japanese Cardinal Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda, of the Archdiocese of Osaka, revealed that the Vatican has launched an investigation of miracles attributed to the intercession of a beatified samurai. Blessed Takayama Ukon, a 17th-century Catholic samurai martyr, could become the first samurai saint in the Catholic Church.

According to a website that tracks Blessed Takayama Ukon’s cause for sainthood, the blessed was “a Catholic layman of heroic virtue who was considered a pillar of the early Church of Japan.” In 1614, he and 350 Japanese Christians were exiled from their country for refusing to give up their Christian faith during the Edo Shogunate’s crackdown. His exile only lasted 44 days, after which he died of an unknown “tropical illness.” 

Blessed Takayama Ukon is considered a martyr because he died in exile for his faith.

If his cause were to be advanced by the Vatican’s investigation, he would become Japan’s 43rd Catholic saint. Blessed Takayama Ukon became the first “Servant of God” ever named in the Church in the Philippines in 1643, and was beatified by Pope Francis during a Mass in Osaka on February 7, 2017.

Cardinal Maeda announced the Vatican’s investigation at a Mass in Manila Cathedral. There, according to CBCP News, the 74-year-old cardinal commented: 

“We pray that the investigation of Ukon’s miracles will be completed and approved at least within the next year or two,” Maeda said. “We hope that we can pray and work together with the people of the Archdiocese of Manila, especially with the archbishop of Manila.”

While the adoption of the Christian faith by samurai warriors was rare, it is not entirely unheard of. During times of fierce persecution by Japanese shoguns who saw Christianity as a sort of foreign invasion, Christians would have to hide their faith in order to avoid exile or execution. 

Still, the Christian samurai came up with clever ways to continue to represent their Christianity, even if they could not be overt. A TikTok from rva.katana shows how Christian samurai would hide cross motifs on the tsuba, or the handguard of the katana. 


Christian Samurai often put hidden symbols on the fittings of their #katana and armor #sword#SwordTok#MerryChristmas

♬ original sound – RVA Katana

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