Takayama the Catholic Samurai & the Japanese Beatas of Manila

April 7, 2015

In front of the abandoned Paco station is a statue of a Samurai, Justo Takayama, who lived and died not far from where it stand. Takayama, a daimyo, was sent packing by an edict from Tokugawa banning Christianity. He was accompanied by Jesuit missionaries and was received with pomp by Filipinos. The conditions and perhaps the sadness of being cut off from his people and land must have caused his health to fail. The  Christian Daimyo died barely two months after he settled in Manila.

It’s already spring here in Osaka and the climate is still chilly especially during the night time. Summer in Manila brings a different kind of heat. Takayama was with his samurais, servants and family. They must have found the climate repressive.

Lady Hosegawa’s simple stone memorial in Japanese style. The zen-esque facade of the Saint Maria Osaka Cathedral. Takayama a potential saint.

Francis Xavier came to Japan in 1549 and was among the first westerners to introduce Christianity to Japan. Historians writes about this unfruitful mission but records shows that his work took root. After only four decades it is believe that Catholics in Japan already reached a quarter of a million.

Spanish authorities recommended to Takayama to overthrow the Tokugawa leadership in their country with the help of the Spanish empire’s military. It is said that he refused this offer; either he saw this as a harmful endeavor for Japan or against his faith.

Another Kirishitan daimyō from Kyushu, Konishi Yukinaga (baptised name Agostinho), fought against Tokugawa. The latter order him to commit suicide after his defeat. Yukinaga, a faithful Catholic refused to do so. He was executed by Tokugawa’s men.

Also on that boat were what some historians suggest to be the first Catholic women Order, headed by Sor Julia Naito, in the country. Little is known about this lady aside from that she was from a noble Japanese family. Historian Jose Victor Torres writes: “She struck upon the idea of establishing an order of religious women. The convent and its members are to be women dedicated to the service of the one true God.” 

Having been guided by Jesuits, their way of religious life had similarities to that of their fathers. Their Order upon reaching Manila predates that of the Poor Clares of Sor Gerónima (est. in Manila in 1621) by about 7 years. Records shows that Naito’s was the first women order in the colony.

The beatas of Miyako, joined Lord Takayama and Lord Juan Naito in Nagasaki on 1614. They reached Manila December that same year.

I made the short walk from the Osaka castle to Osaka Cathedral hoping to catch mass. I heard that there are Filipino priests in there and that they celebrate Tagalog mass. Our timing was off and found the church to be under construction.

There’s a church in Takatsuki that also honors the memory of Ukon; they lived in this town for more than decade.

In front of the Osaka church stands two simple solid stone monuments for Lord Takayama and Lady Hosegawa. While both did not perish under their tormentors hands their decision to embrace Catholicism gave them unimaginable difficulties. In Takayama’s case, a samurai lord, it meant losing everything.

An interesting question that I have not found a ready answer is what happened to the Japanese of Spanish Manila? The ghetto they occupied in Paco? The samurai warriors the Spanish hired to fight?

It’s hard to imagine that they just vanished considering their deep and rooted traditions.

Did they found a way back to their homeland or did they, as some theorize, fully integrated and became Filipinos?


March 2015

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[…] I visited the Osaka cathedral where he was beatified. It’s a shame that I no longer had the time and funds to go to Takatsuki, a part of Takayama’s old domain not far from downtown. Perhaps next time. […]