Tag Archives: japan

Ernie de Pedro’s Takayama Ukon Research

Two weeks ago I received an email from Dr. Ernie de Pedro. Turns out that he has been conducting research for years on the recently beatified Takayama. I was elated to know that he created a website with his son dedicated to the Christian samurai lord.

For those not familiar with Dr. Ernie de Pedro, he’s an Oxford graduate and former director general of the country’s film archive body. He took up his doctorate studies in UST and is now a Managing Trustee for Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation. He specializes in Philippine-Japan history and has worked with several presidents; from Magsaysay to Erap.

Manong Ernie is a down to earth historian, approachable, rare for someone with his credentials. I met him six years ago. The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, asked me to interview him in 2011. 

According to Ms. Medina, Manong Ernie witnessed her grandfather’s​ public execution. Emilio Medina y Lazo was governor of Ilocos under the Japanese. Ms. Medina wrote Sampaguitas in the Andes (2006) a tribute and memoir to her grandfather.

When I asked if his spiritual belief is “framed within a formal religion or as a personal religiousness?” Dr. de Pedro had a profound response but the line that stuck with me was that for him, “Catholicism is a good religion to die in.” 

He ended up helping Japanese researchers after being approached for help on several occasions. They thought he was in charge of the country’s archives. He was working with film archives, not national archives. He later decided to help with research.

Last month I was reminded of Takayama when I saw the trailer of “Silenced” by Martin Scorcece. I went to the local library to look for the novel the film was based on. No copy was available. The film made the Japanese novel in demand once more.

“Silence” is about Portuguese Jesuits who came to look for their missing compatriot. The setting was during the time of the “Hidden Christians” of the Tokugawa era. Christianity was banned in 1614. Takayama came to Manila in 1615. He died a few months after his arrival.

Takayama Ukon in Plaza Dilao

I wrote several blog entries about Takayama. I take inspiration from his example. His is a story of faith and loyalty. It must have been his wish or must be God’s design that he died in Manila. Catholic burial rites was impossible under the Tokugawa ban. He would have been deprived of one.

According to Dr. de Pedro, Takayama was interred in the old Jesuit church in Intramuros. When WWII leveled much of it, the Jesuits moved the residents of the crypt to the Jesuit Novaliches cemetery. Takayama’s​ remains (along with Lord Naito) were mixed up with other bones. They did test for DNA but so far has failed to get positive identification.

When I visited the Archdiocese of Osaka I saw a simple statue of Takayama holding a small cross. The one in Paco’s Plaza Dilao have a long pointed crucifix (similar to the one in Takatsuki). The church is close to the historic Osaka castle, about 20 to 30 minute walk. Umeda or Nakatsu (closest to the Archdiocese) are the train stations nearby.

Last February, the Christian samurai lord was beatified in the Archdiocese of Osaka. The beatification puts him closer to sainthood.

In his old age, with support mainly from close friends and family, Dr. De Pedro took on a daunting task but he seem happy with how things has turn out. In his email he said, “Everyone is involved. When I crowd sourced our ramen-money for the Japan trip — every relativr from the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, the US, Canada and Norway came through! Isn’t it great to have such a formidable Support group?”

Please drop by takayamaukon.com and learn more about Justo Takayama Ukon. Support the cause and its advocates, include them in your prayers!

Here are my old posts about Takayama:

The Japanese of Old Manila


Save the Old Paco Train Station


Takayama the Catholic Samurai



Osaka Holiday

Osaka’s a good jump point if your planning a trip to nearby Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. But if I had just one day I won’t mind spending it all here. Osaka offer a glimpse of traditional and modern Japan. It’s an impressive metropolis dotted with historical sites.

I’ve always wanted to eat authentic Japanese ramen and tonkatsu all my life in Japan and I decided this is the city where I should do it! There was a food bazaar, offering never-before-tasted Japanese dishes, not far from where we stayed. Most customers were from the offices around Umeda and passengers from Osaka station. I have never seen a busier train interchange.

It was challenging just to ask for directions here. They can’t explain well in English and they don’t exert much effort to. In fact even when they know you don’t speak Japanese they would speak to you in Japanese. But I see this more as a sign of great pride than lack of consideration. You don’t see a Japanese imitating English accents to impress outsiders. In fact, when they speak and write in English, they do so in their own way too.

Clouds over the Northern provinces (could be Ilocos) of our beautiful motherland. A delectable tonkatsu meal after that long flight—best porkchops—ever. Some old sign written in Japanese, English and Spanish; Osaka’s a historic port visited by many western empires when it opened its doors. This I found out, Japanese have a healthy reading habit, and it should not come as a surprise really.

These banners are so cool but I learned that they’re just names of food being served in this food fair. That rice and beef curry, Japanese style, is to die for! The Dragon Ball Z franchise was such a hit back when I was a teenager that one of its character now have a soft drink product of his own. Bikes for rents; these won’t last a minute in Manila.

I enjoyed walking around and observing both people and trains in Osaka station, one of the busiest railway station in the country; the busiest I have ever seen in my life. The hotel I was in had a great view of the station. It took some studying, maps, books and websites before I got comfortable riding trains. I don’t think I really got the hang of it but we did well considering that English is hardly spoken. I took my brother’s advise, “enjoy it (trains), there’s nothing like it,” and I did but not after getting dazed and confused and lost.

The north district’s food haven can be found in the streets of Umeda. It’s crowded, there’s a lot of heavy drinking (and heavy eating) but true to the image that we see of Japan on TV and books, restos were orderly. Discipline is what sets these people apart.

I rarely saw a bike that’s padlocked in the streets. Ironically, in NHK Osaka, the umbrella rack have locks but this I learned was not because they’re being stolen, the locks were made to avoid people picking someone else umbrella accidentally.

They have everything in these small stalls; even meals in bento boxes. Another tonkatsu meal; feeding my pork chop addiction. The iconic Glico man; you can’t say you’ve been to Osaka without a photo with this neon ad in Dotonbori—even Michael Douglas in Black Rain had a scene here. Walking in a sunny weather is easy, the temperature during day time is around 5 to 8 degrees. They say there’s still some winter left around this time.

I read somewhere that the Japanese population is fast aging. I did notice that couples with children are not that visible; children are a rare sight here unlike in other countries where you hear children every where. People in developed countries eventually would have less time raising children, and this is true across the globe, while people in 3rd world countries have time, but not the resources, to do so. Big families are good for developed economies but not for struggling ones.

There’s another reason why I wanted to see Osaka. Black Rain. The Ridley Scott movie that starred Michael Douglas. I love that film; some of its memorable scenes were shot here in Osaka. I have three original DVD at home and one of them is this film.

Traveling to Japan is not as expensive as it used to be—but still expensive—at least for me. We saved up for the trip with the intention of seeing this country’s culture and people which we greatly admired—and of course, to sample the food which I admire even more; some say that Osaka is the food capital, not only of Japan but of the world!

It must be fate or chance that the month of our visit coincided with the passing of my Sister-in-Law. A Japanese whom my Brother met in Yokosuka. I know she wanted us to see Japan; she told me this and I feel that us making it all the way to her Land of the rising Sun is something that made her smile.

March 2015

More on Ricarte

I previously wrote a blog about Ricarte a week ago after reading a 1920’s article by Kalaw. I have to add something to that after I stumbled upon some interesting pictures of him.

Below are three telling pictures of El Vibora. The first one is the Japanese memorial dedicated in his honor – this was obviously made for their countrymen alone (it has no English nor Spanish sublines).

The second one, a smug shot taken while he was a prisoner in Bilibid Viejo in Manila. The American’s had just taken over and found resistance from men who originally took part in the Filipino Spanish war. The defiant picture of the young Ricarte speaks about the struggle the Filipinos like him had to endure under the Americans. Men like Ricarte, suffering the pain of how they were robbed of freedom and glory continued the fight against the new invaders.

I found out that some of Ricarte’s descendants lives near where my relatives in Gen. Trias resides. I was told that there are numerous Ricartes now living in the US.  Times has changed, I wonder what the recalcitrant Ricarte would think of his descendants. If I have time I’ll try to look for these people. I want to hear their stories.

Memorial in Japan

Young Prisoner Ricarte.

Ricarte's "Karihan Luvimin"

Ricarte was living quite a comfortable life in Japan when he was given an opportunity to go back to his land to “help” and “pacify” his kababayan, under uncertain conditions he did. Aside from teaching Spanish at a University he also had this food shop called Karihan there. Curry is a south east Asian flavor and it seem that the enterprising husband and wife was cashing in on a Japanese fascination. The shops name suggest the man’s undying love for his country. I wonder what would have happened to him if he resisted the temptation of again joining the war against the Americans, this time as an ally of the Japanese.

We have to try to understand more the lives of our heroes, so we can, individually and collectively, as a nation, relive their heroism.

A story is told about how Ricarte while in Japan, wept uncontrollably seeing Atang de la Rama perform kundiman. When I hear the patriotic song’s lyric, “Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya. Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila. Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa”, I don’t know why but Ricarte comes to mind – Perhaps, because I believe he’s got that kind of love for his country.

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