Takayama Justo was born to be the heir of Takayama Tomoteru, the lord of Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province. His name as a child was Hikogorō (彦五郎). At the age of 12 (1564), his father converted to Catholicism and Hikogorō was also baptized Justo. After his coming-of-age ceremony, Hikogorō was named Shigetomo (重友). However, he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近). The name Ukon comes from the government post he pretended, the officer of Ukonoefu. (This was usual practice among samurai of the time.)
Justo and his father fought through the turbulent age to secure their position as a daimyo. They managed to acquire Takatsuki Castle (Takatsuki, Osaka) under Oda Nobunaga and also under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, at least in the first years of his rule. During their domination of Takatsuki Region, Justo and his father Dario pushed their policy as Kirishitan daimyo (Christian daimyo) forward. Many of his fellows converted under his influence.
However, Toyotomi Hideyoshi grew against Christianity and, in 1587, he ordered expulsion of missionaries. While many daimyo obeyed this order and discarded Catholicism, Justo proclaimed that he would maintain his religion and rather give up his land and property.
Justo lived under protection of his friends for several decades, but following the 1614 prohibition of Christianity by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of the time, he was expelled from Japan. On November 8, 1614, together with 300 Japanese Christians he left his home country from Nagasaki. He arrived at Manila on December 21 and was greeted warmly by the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos there.
The Spanish Philippines offered its assistance in overthrowing the Japanese government by invasion to protect Japanese Catholics. Justo declined to participate, and died of illness just 40 days afterwards.
At that time, the Spaniards referred to the Paco Area as the “Yellow Plaza” because of the more than 3,000 Japanese who resided there. Plaza Dilao is the last vestige of the old town of Paco.
There is a statue of Dom Justo Takayama in Plaza Dilao, Manila. Justo appears in the statue wearing warrior robes with his hair tied in a knot. He is carrying a sword that is pointed downward, upon which hangs a figure of a crucified Jesus.
When he died in 1615, the Spanish government interred him with a Christian burial with full military honors as a Daimyo. He is the first Daimyo to be buried in Philippine soil.