Brother Takayama: Christian Samurai who will be Canonised

Roman Catholic Christianity adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun was held on grounds the Vatican hasn’t seen before. Very different from nations and tribes submitted via Vatican evangelization process, exclusive, original and above all extremely reluctant to face any influence from the outside, the Japanese medieval rejected the new religion with unprecedented violence.

Certainly one of the most important and interesting figures of those troubled times, samurai Takayama Ukonforever won both his country’s history and Christianity’s adventure on Japanese soil.

Between Jesuits and Samurai

Although some authors historians as the first places the Nestorian Christians who have walked the Japanese soil, powerful and influential Roman Catholic order of the Jesuits was that link implementation and establishment (with the status of religious minorities, it is true ) Christianity in Japan.

Christian missionary episode in this region can be characterized as a short risky affair, characterized by much violence for the typical medieval Japanese world. Nothing more than a cruel example of the social concept of “Clash of the Civilizations”. Obviously, with a strong religious nature incompatible.

It all began in 1543, when the Jesuit Order branch of the Portuguese kingdom sent the first missionaries to Japan with the express order of Christianization of the “pagan idolaters” Islands where the Sun rises, as Nippon Empire was known in those days by Europeans.

Japan was then an open market coveted by European powers, creating pockets of local converts as well served their interests. Alarmed by this prospect, the Spanish Empire, the great rival of the Portuguese at that time, sent its turn in 1549, mainly sending their own missionary religious orders of the Franciscans and Dominicans.

Both missions had the blessing of the Vatican, and the main stated goal was to “Save Japanese souls”.

The two powers engaged in the High Pontiff, respect and for Japan, the Treaty of Tordesillas under which Spain and Portugal undertook to divide the world into their spheres of cultural influence, trade, and colonization.

As from signing the treaty, neither of the two powers come into contact with Japan, the new land would enter the sphere of influence of the first arriving there, namely Portugal.

The first Jesuits arrived in Japan was the monk Francis Xavier, who was interested in learning about this strange and Japanese empire from a refugee named Anjiro, refugee that he met in Malacca.

Full of missionary enthusiasm, Xavier landed in Japan ready to save the fires of hell, subjects of an empire whose policy of that time focusing on the rejection of violence of any kind of contact and influence from the outside.

Xavier would face greater difficulties than they have ever imagined. First, they were denied the first contacts with the king, detail decisively in a world where the king had incarnated god status. Second, the Japanese proved to be against conversion to a new religion, strange and difficult to accept for them. 

Brother Takayama: Christian Samurai who will be Canonised 1

The Japanese were not people in a spiritual crisis, as they were not deprived of dogmatic foundations of religion. Mahayana Buddhism flourished here for centuries, in addition, most of the inhabitants were still faithful to ancient Shinto religion, a sort of Japanese shamanism.

Despite some similarities message of Christ with Buddhist precepts, the Japanese could not conceive the existence of a supreme entity that created everything, including evil, and that was essentially the supreme good. In addition, the presence of hell. How Japanese worshiped their ancestors (non-christian obviously), did not accept the idea that there, not a terrible place where worship ancestors were damned souls to eternal torment. 

Despite these major differences, Jesuit discovered that the Japanese people were essentially good, polite and civilized that could be eventually converted. Initially, Xavier was welcomed by the Shingon Buddhist sect monks, but when they understood that Jesuit rival began to preach religion and was immediately denied.

How European missionaries discovered that the most permissive Japanese were business partners, Christianity began within the Japanese community, Japanese merchants who were in frequent contact with missionaries.

Everything seemed on fire, the more so as some daimyo (local nobles) accepted to build their churches. Foreign missionaries were without any military action. Many daimyo had converted to Christianity from a pure desire to have such access to the Spanish and Portuguese imported saltpeter, which is necessary to manufacture gunpowder.

In this view, between 1553 and 1620, only less than 86 of the daimyo were baptized, while others sympathized with the Christians.

Shimabara Rebellion and Massacre

Despite the apparent climate conducive to the development of Christianity, the horizon was marred by atrocious threat embodied in the person of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), one of the most feared warlords in Japanese history.

After the bloody suppression of all nobles who opposed him, Hideyoshi unification of Japan succeeded in becoming the de facto ruler of the empire. Warrior leader was particularly attentive to external threats, particularly the expansion of European powers in East Asia.

The factor that triggered the avalanche Hideyoshi’s anger on Christian communities incident was the so-called San Felipe, where a Spanish captain in a desperate attempt to recover galleon wrecked in the bay Urado, declared that Christian missionaries would prepare the conquest of Japan. Nobles practiced forced conversion to Christianity on their subjects was another warning to Hideyoshi who was forced to ban Christianity.

The measure was met with hostility from new believers and missionaries. However, the chief military persecutions were particularly brutal.

A total of 36 Christians, among whom were six European missionaries were crucified in Nagasaki, as a way of funeral Hideyoshi’s opinion about Christianity. The 36 were sanctified in 1852 by Pope Pius IX, being the holy martyrs in the Catholic calendar.

However, the terrible event was nothing more than the first episode of persecuşiilor that prefigured.

After the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Shogun passed the measure of Yeyasu capital. Famous shogun decided in 1614 banning Catholicism expel all missionaries and execution of all converts.

Persecution met tough resistance from indigenous Christianity all. The maximum event culminated in the outbreak so I called Shimabara rebellion.

Shimabara Rebellion broke out in the fields and Karatsu, held by nobles and Terasawa Katataka Matsukura Katsu.

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Which was subsequently an aura of religious persecution, was originally a social movement influenced by local hunger and tax increases. Protagonists were largely Christianized peasants who have added a number of stray samurai. Participated in suppressing the revolt even Miyamoto Musashi, considered the best swordsman in Japanese history.

The rebellion ended with the siege of Hara Castle, the headquarters of Christians. The rebels approximately 27,000-125,000 warriors faced the Shogun Tokugawa.

After a fierce and heroic resistance of Christians, the castle fell into the hands of Toda Ujikane Force Commander shogun. The outcome was terrible even for Japanese military standards of the time.

About 37,000 rebels and their supporters were beheaded on the spot and Hara Castle was burned and destroyed, the remains of fortress decapitated bodies were buried alongside the rebels, as they would have liked the removal of these events on the earth’s surface.

Measures against Christians were tightened further, and this religion has survived only in terms of underground until modern times.

Dom Justo: Japanese Saint

One of the most important figures of early Christianity about Japanese samurai was certainly Takayama Ukon. Born in 1531 the son of the daimyo Takayama Tomoteru, lord of the castle Sawa Yamato Province, Ukon have tried to be strong fate since childhood.

His father was christened in 1564, Ukon is in turn baptized in Catholic worship, baptism, receiving the name of Justo. Tomoteru received the Christian name of Darius, would the end gave his life to Christianity and returned to its original religion.

Political events were to precipitate. After Hideyoshi’s edict, many Christian daimyo gave the new religion faced expulsion alternative areas and loss of empire.

Justo Takayama Ukon not young. Although most noble Christians were subjected to Hideyoshi’s edict, Justo young Delara it better to lose their lands and properties, only to lose salvation of the soul.

Dom Justo came from one of the most famous samurai clans, therefore, benefited from valuable military training, which not escape depth of Hideyoshi.

As a thank you for services, military leader seconding the Justo in Akashi, Harima Province. Once installed there, Dom Justo already “virus” Born to the missionary at any cost, mass proceeds to convert the local population, leading eventually to anger Buddhist monks in the province.

They submit a virulent protest of Toyotomi Hideyoshi but do not have an immediate reaction.

Dom Justo saw him having to military and logistical support Hideyoshi and the invasion of Kyushu in 1587. This was the last military campaign attended, Hideyoshi succeeded in crushing the uprising in Kyushu warrior monks, and was established as a military and political leader of the country.

Only then turned his attention on Christianity, being alarmed by the growing influence them. Takayama Ukon was known as a militant Christian and began to be seen as a daimyo in the new leadership could no longer trust.

Even before the campaign in Kyushu, “Samurai Pope” was left without his fiefs and was forced by circumstances to seek refuge in the court of Konishi Yukinaga, one of the most powerful and influential Christian daimyo.

Subsequently, fate brought the service Maeda clan after its leader, Maeda Toshiie accepted as a counselor. Although after Hideyoshi’s edict, Maeda clan leadership feared that precious Ukon will start a fight on their own instead of leaving the country as did the vast majority of Japanese Christians.

However, true to his faith, Dom Justo made peace with the situation and chose exile. It finally arrived on November 8, 1614, in Manila, Philippines, an outpost of Roman Catholicism in the Pacific.

It was received with great joy and warmth by Jesuit brothers there, but fell ill and died just 40 days after his landing in Manila.

Personality and his efforts have not been forgotten. Order of Jesuits at that time considered a true pillar around which coalesced core of Japanese Christianity.

However, currently, Christian samurai enjoy acclaim Japanese historians consider it a symbol of duplicity and aggressive Christian missionary Sengoku Era (mid-15th century – early 17th century).

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Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tokugawa Ieyasu certainly one of the most important shogun in Japanese history

After Takayama Ukon was posted in Akashi, about 18,000 of the 25,000 inhabitants were already Christianized, an achievement highly appreciated by the Jesuits, but blamed his compatriots who accused today of forced conversion. Another turning point in his life was the captain of Oda Nobunaga funeral when Dom Justo refused to burn incense and say prayers in memory of the deceased Buddhist. Hideyoshi’s gesture not escaping, further deepening the gap between the two.

There is now a towering statue in Plaza Dilao in Manila, samurai statue that Christianity is represented wearing Haori (Japanese coat) and Hakama (wide trousers worn by samurai). 

Don Justo holding a Japanese sword with the tip facing down, over which is superimposed a crucifix large. After his death, the Spanish authorities in the Philippines was buried with high military honors, the first and only daimyo buried in the Philippines.

Takayama Ukon currently awaiting illustrate the proposed list for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

He received protocol number 1241, signed and approved by the Congregation for the Cause of Saints of the Roman Catholic Curia. The story contains many blank spots but currently studied by Japanese historians.

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