Sakamoto Ry%C5%8Dma
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Sakamoto Ry%C5%8Dma
Sakamoto Ry?ma
Sakamoto Ryoma.jpg
BornJanuary 3, 1836
DiedDecember 10, 1867(1867-12-10) (aged 31)
Cause of deathAssassination
Other names
OccupationSamurai, politician
Narasaki Ry?
Parent(s)Hachihei (Naotari), Sachi
Japanese name
Hiragana? ?
Katakana? ?

Sakamoto Ry?ma (?, 3 January 1836 - 10 December 1867) was a Japanese samurai and influential figure of the Bakumatsu and establishment of the Empire of Japan in the late Edo period. He was a low-ranking samurai from the Tosa Domain on Shikoku and became an active opponent of the Tokugawa Shogunate after the end of Japan's sakoku isolationist policy. Ry?ma under the alias Saitani Umetar? () worked against the Bakufu, the government of the Tokugawa shogunate, and was often hunted by their supporters and the Shinsengumi. Ry?ma advocated for democracy, Japanese nationalism, return of power to the Imperial Court, abolition of feudalism, and moderate modernization and industrialization of Japan. Ry?ma successfully negotiated the Satch? Alliance between the powerful rival Ch?sh? and Satsuma domains and united them against the Bakufu. Ry?ma was assassinated in December 1867 with his companion Nakaoka Shintar?, shortly before the Boshin War and the Meiji Restoration.

Early life

Sakamoto Ry?ma was born on 3 January 1836 in K?chi in the han (domain) of Tosa, located in Tosa Province (present-day K?chi Prefecture) on the island of Shikoku. By the Japanese calendar, Ry?ma was born on the 15th day of the 11th month, of the sixth year of Tenp?. The Sakamoto family held the rank of country samurai or G?shi [ja], the lowest rank in the samurai hierarchy, which previous generations had purchased by acquiring enough wealth as sake brewers. Unlike other Japanese domains, Tosa had a strictly-enforced separation between the joshi (high-ranking samurai) and kashi (low-ranking samurai). The ranks were treated unequally and residential areas were segregated; even in Sakamoto Ry?ma's generation (the third in the Sakamoto family), his family's samurai rank remained kashi.

At the age of twelve, Ry?ma was enrolled in a private school, but this was a brief episode in his life as he showed little scholarly inclination. Ry?ma's older sister subsequently enrolled him in fencing classes of the Oguri-ry? when he was 14, after he was bullied at school. By the time Ry?ma reached adulthood, he was by all accounts a master swordsman. In 1853, Ry?ma was allowed by his clan to travel to Edo, the seat of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and the de facto capital of Japan, to train and polish his skills as a swordsman. Ry?ma enrolled as a student at the famous Hokushin Itt?-ry? Hy?h? Chiba-D?j?, which was led by its first Headmaster Chiba Sadakichi Masamichi at that time. Ry?ma received the scroll from the school that declared his mastery.[1] Ry?ma became a shihan at the Chiba-D?j? and taught Kenjutsu to the students together with Chiba J?tar? Kazutane, in whom he found a close friend.


Sakamoto Ry?ma standing (circa 1866)

Early Bakumatsu

In 1853, the Perry Expedition began while Ry?ma was studying and teaching in Edo, beginning the Bakumatsu period. Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States arrived in Japan with a fleet of ships to forcibly end the centuries-old sakoku policy of national isolationism. In March 1854, Perry pressured the Tokugawa to sign the Convention of Kanagawa, officially ending the sakoku policy but widely perceived in Japan as an "unequal treaty" and a sign of weakness. The prestige and legitimacy of the Sh?gun, a de facto military dictator with nominal appointment from the Emperor of Japan, was severely damaged to the public. The convention was signed by the r?j? Abe Masahiro, acting as regent for the young and sickly Sh?gun Tokugawa Iesada, against the will of the Imperial Court in Kyoto, the de jure ruling authority. Anti-Tokugawa considered this evidence the Sh?gun could no longer fulfil the Emperor's will, and therefore no longer fit to rule for him. Ry?ma and many of the samurai class supported returning state power directly to the Imperial Court in Kyoto and began agitating for the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate.

In 1858, Ry?ma returned to Tosa after completing his studies, and became politically active in the local Sonn? j?i, the anti-Tokugawa movement that arose in the aftermath of the Convention of Kanagawa.

In 1862, Ry?ma's friend Takechi Hanpeita (or Takechi Zuizan) organized the Tosa Loyalist Party "Kinnoto", a Sonn? j?i organization of about 2000 samurai (mostly from the lower rank) with the political slogan "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians" that insisted on the reform of the Tosa government. Yamauchi Toyoshige, the daimy? (lord) of the Tosa Domain, refused to recognize the group. In response, Tosa Kinnoto plotted to assassinate Yamauchi's governor, Yoshida Toyo, who was appointed as a reformer and modernizer. Yoshida was later assassinated by the Tosa Kinnoto after Ry?ma had left Tosa. Ry?ma participated in the plot but did not advocate: he believed Tosa Kinnoto should do something for all of Japan, while Takechi demanded a revolution for only the Tosa clan. Ry?ma decided to separate from Takechi and leave Tosa without authorization. In those days, no one in Japan was permitted to leave their clan without permission under the penalty of death, known as dappan. One of Ry?ma's sisters committed suicide because he left without permission. Sakamoto would later use the alias "Saitani Umetar?" ( ) as he worked against the sh?gun.[2] Ry?ma is mentioned under this alias in the diary of Ernest Satow for 30 September 1867: "Mr. Saedani had to be sat up for laughing at the questions put by us, evidently with the object of ridiculing us out of our case, but he got a flea in his lug and shut up making the most diabolical faces."[3]

Late Bakumatsu

While a r?nin, Ry?ma decided to assassinate Katsu Kaish?, a high-ranking official in the Tokugawa shogunate and a supporter of both modernization and westernization. However, Katsu Kaish? persuaded Ry?ma of the necessity of a long-term plan to increase Japan's military strength in the face of Western influence that led to the Convention of Kanagawa. Instead of killing Katsu Kaish?, Ry?ma started working as his assistant and protégé.

In 1864, as the Tokugawa shogunate began taking a hard line against dissenters, Ry?ma fled to Kagoshima in Satsuma Domain, which was developing as a major centre for the anti-Tokugawa movement. In 1866, Ry?ma successfully negotiated the secret Satch? Alliance between the Satsuma and Ch?sh? - two powerful domains that historically had been irreconcilable enemies. Ry?ma's position as a "neutral outsider" was critical in bridging the gap in trust and ending the feud, and accomplished the establishment of a significant military alliance against the Tokugawa. Ry?ma is often regarded as the "father of the Imperial Japanese Navy", as he worked under Katsu Kaish?'s direction toward creating a modern naval force (with the aid of western powers) to enable Satsuma and Ch?sh? to hold their own against the naval forces of the Tokugawa shogunate.[] Ry?ma founded the private navy and trading company Kameyama Shach? in Nagasaki City with the help of the Satsuma, which later became kaientai or Ocean Support Fleet.

Ch?sh?'s subsequent victory over the Tokugawa army in 1866 and the impending collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate made Ry?ma a valuable commodity to his former masters in Tosa, and recalled to K?chi with honours. The Tosa Domain was anxious to obtain a negotiated settlement between the Sh?gun and the Emperor, which would prevent the powerful Satch? Alliance from overthrowing the Tokugawa by force and thus emerging as a new dominant force in ruling Japan. Ry?ma again played a crucial role in the subsequent negotiations that led to the voluntary resignation of the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in 1867, thus bringing about the Meiji Restoration.


Ry?ma was assassinated at the ?miya Inn () in Kyoto on 10 December 1867, not long before the Meiji Restoration took place, at the age of 31. At night, assassins gathered at the door of the inn, one approached and knocked, acting as an ordinary caller. The door was answered by Ry?ma's bodyguard and manservant, a former sumo wrestler, who told the stranger he would see if Ry?ma was accepting callers at that hour of the evening. When the bodyguard turned his back, the visitor at the door drew his sword and slashed his back, which became a fatal wound. The team of assassins rushed over and passed the dying sumo wrestler and up the stairs to the guests' rooms. Ry?ma and Nakaoka Shintar? were resting in one room talking. Hearing the scuffle on the first floor, Ry?ma opened the door to yell at his bodyguard, thinking he was wrestling with a friend. The assassins charged the room, some tearing through the paper doors (sh?ji), and a confused melée ensued as lamps were knocked over and the room went dark. By the end of the fight, both Ry?ma and Shintaro lay badly wounded, and the assassins fled. Ry?ma died that night, regretting with his last words that his assassins caught him unprepared. Shintaro died two days later.

The night of the assassination was eventually called the Omiya Incident. According to the traditional lunar calendar, Ry?ma was born on the 15th day of the 11th month, and killed on his birthday in 1867. Initial reports of Ry?ma's and Shintar?'s deaths accused members of the Shinsengumi, a special police force of swordsmen of the Bakufu (Tokugawa military government) based in Kyoto. Shinsengumi leader Kond? Isami was later executed on this charge. However, members of another pro-sh?gun group, the Mimawarigumi, confessed to the murder in 1870. Although Mimawarigumi members Sasaki Tadasabur? ( ) and Imai Nobuo carry the blame, the identity of the true assassin has never been proven.[4]Okuda Matsugoro, who was known by working since his early adolescence as a spy for Kond?, was rumored to have taken part in the assassination.[5]


The Teradaya Inn in Kyoto, where Ry?ma was attacked in a failed assassination attempt, before being fatally injured at Omiya Inn.

Ry?ma was a visionary who dreamt of an independent Japan without feudalism or the caste system, inspired by the example of the United States where "all men are created equal". Ry?ma was an admirer of democratic principles and studied democratic governance, particularly the United States Congress and British Parliament, as a model for the governance of Japan after the Restoration. Ry?ma argued that after centuries of having little-to-no political power, the Imperial Court lacked the resources and wherewithal to run the country. Ry?ma wrote the "Eight Proposals While Shipboard" () while discussing the future model of Japanese government with Got? Sh?jir? on board a Tosa ship outside Nagasaki in 1867. Ry?ma outlined the need for a democratically elected bicameral legislature, the writing of a constitution, the formation of a national army and navy, and the regulation of the exchange rates of gold and silver. Ry?ma read about the Western world and realized that for Japan to compete with an industrially and technologically advanced outside world, the Japanese people needed to modernize. Ry?ma's proposals are thought to form the basis for the subsequent parliamentary system implemented in Japan after his death.

Ry?ma has also been seen as an intriguing mix of the traditional and modern, symbolized by his preference for samurai dress while favoring Western footwear.[]

Ry?ma has been heavily featured and romanticized in Japanese popular culture.[]

Honors in modern times

On 15 November 2003, the K?chi Airport was renamed the K?chi Ry?ma Airport in his honor.

There is a Sakamoto Ry?ma Memorial Museum (?) south of K?chi, with a large bronze statue of Ryoma overlooking the sea. The city of K?chi has a number of Ry?ma-themed attractions and locations, including the Sakamoto Ry?ma Birthplace Memorial, and the Sakamoto Ry?ma Hometown Museum, dedicated to showing what downtown K?chi was like during Ry?ma's childhood, including relevant aspects that may have influenced his views. On 15 November 2009, the Hokkaid? Sakamoto Ry?ma Memorial Museum was built in Hakodate, Hokkaido.

Asteroid 2835 Ryoma is named after him. Asteroid 5823 Oryo is named after his wife.



  • Father Yahei (Imina Naotari)
  • Mother Sachi


  • Iyo


  • Gonbei (the elder)


  • Chizu (the eldest)
  • Ei (the second)
  • Tome (the third)



  • Tar? (adopted child, Chizu's child)

In popular culture

An April 2010 Japan Times article wrote "Ry?ma has inspired at least seven television drama series, six novels, seven manga and five films." Actor Masaharu Fukuyama said that Ryoma's appeal stems from being "the kind of person onto whom anyone can project themselves", when describing his role as Ryoma in the NHK drama Ry?maden.[6]

Sakomota Ryoma is a principle character in the manga and subsequent 2009 TBS series Jin. He was portrayed by Seiy? Uchino. Sakamoto is a recurring character in the NHK Taiga Drama: Shinsengumi!. He is portrayed as a friend of Kond? Isami since their younger days. In the drama he is assassinated by Sasaki Tadasabur? and the Mimawarigumi. In NHK's Taiga Drama Segodon, Sakamoto Ry?ma is portrayed by actor Shun Oguri[7]

In the video game Ry? Ga Gotoku Ishin!, the second samurai-themed spinoff to the Yakuza video game series, Sakamoto Ry?ma is the main protagonist. He is voiced by and modeled after actor Takaya Kuroda. Sakamoto appears in the historical manga Shura no Toki, which was later adapted into the anime, Mutsuen Meiry? Gaiden: Shura no Toki. In addition, he also makes appearances, with varying levels of historical accuracy, in numerous other manga, anime, and video games.

GReeeeN wrote a song about what Sakamoto would be like in the modern world. The song is titled "Sakamoto".


See also


  1. ^ Kyodo, Staff Report, "Sakamoto swordsmanship scroll declared authentic", The Japan Times, Nov 9, 2015
  2. ^ Hongo, Jun, "Sakamoto, the man and the myth", The Japan Times, April 27, 2010, p. 3.
  3. ^ R. Morton & I. Ruxton, eds., The Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow, 1861-69, Kyoto: Eureka Press, 2013, p. 262.
  4. ^ Gombrich, Marius, "Crime scene investigation: Edo: Samurai Sakamoto Ryoma's murder scene makes a grisly but fascinating show", The Japan Times, May 7, 2010, p. 15.
  5. ^ Yawata, Hideo (1973). Remnants of Yawara. Danburisha.
  6. ^ Corkill, Edan (January 3, 2010). "Legendary, dirty samurai gets makeover". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ >?""?!?"?"!!?. (in Japanese). July 16, 2018. Retrieved 2018.


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes