Monday, August 13, 2012

Outline of Ryoma Sakamoto

   Ryoma Sakamoto is a nationally popular hero who lived around the end of the Samurai period, and always ranks high in surveys that ask “who do you like the most among Japan’s historical figures?”

   He was born at Kamimachi in Kochi City on 15th of November 1835. As a child he was often bullied at school and so he was enrolled in a fencing school by his older sister. By adulthood he had become a master swordsman.

   A respectful and intelligent man, Ryoma had passionate political beliefs. He had a clear foresight, and through his involvement with others who shared his beliefs he was able to make a great contribution to Japan’s rapid modernization.

   At that time, Japan’s central government, called Bakufu, was losing its power over the clans and did not know how to deal with demands from foreign countries. Ryoma had been thinking about how to reform the national political and economic system.

   After twice fleeing Tosa (now Kochi Pref.), without official permission, he saw that in order for Japan to achieve national unity it would have to depend on the cooperation of the two strongest anti-Bakufu clans at the time – the Satsuma (Kagoshima) and Choshu (Yamaguchi) clans. In 1866, he succeeded in forming an alliance (the “Saccho Domei”) between these two traditional enemies.

   He finally realized “Taiseihokan” (returning power to the throne) and the Bakufu turned over its power to the emperor. It was a bloodless revolution.

   He also formulated an “Eight-Point Program,” for the modernization of Japan, a political guideline for the new government and cabinet.

   Moreover, Ryoma Sakamoto’s successful setting up of the “Kaientai” highlights his remarkable shrewdness as a businessman. All too aware of Japan’s potential weaknesses and limitations as an Island Nation, he could also see the importance of strengthening its naval force and of investing in maritime trade.

   His dream was to “work in earnest with worldwide perspective”, but just before the Meiji restoration was near at hand, he was assassinated at the Japanese Inn “Omiya” in Kyoto. It was 15th of November, the same date as he was born.

   There are countless books about Ryoma, and the most well-known book is Ryoma ga yuku by Ryotaro Shiba. Also there are several books written in English.Why don’t you take a look and discover these fascinating times?

   Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai
   Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration

Taken from vol.33 PDF

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