April 18, 2024


Simple Impartial Art

Ryoma Sakamoto, A Visionary Activist

Japanese historians call Meiji restoration as a non-blood-shed revolution, which is unique in world history for modernization. The historical fact was that there was no brutal civil war in Japan. It was 1867 when Edo Shogun Government resigned and gave the politics back to the Emperor. As a result, both new Meiji Government new regime and Shogun Government, ancient regime could avoid bloody civil war.

Yet, there were lots of killings and bloodshed until Shogun Government gave up its rulings. In their conflict between ancient authorities and newly emerging power, many young, ambitious, smart, and influential people died.

Among those killed visionaries in the emerging power, Ryoma Sakamoto was the one passed before he observed the formation of Japanese New Government. Since he was the most powerful driving force for peaceful change of government, it was ironical and pity that a vicious assassin killed him. It was regrettable that he could not live until the start of new Imperial Government and started its activities. He could make him an unusually respectable statesman with his vision, patriotism, and remarkable power of foreseeing the future.

Ryoma belonged to the lower class of Samurai society in feudal domain of Tosa (now Kochi Prefecture). He was a fearful, shy, and holding child in his childhood. His biography shows that he continued to wet his bed until he became 10 years old. As usual for shy and holding child, Ryoma hoped to train himself to be strong. He studied sward art and politics in Edo (now Tokyo). He became a master of sward art of one of leading sward art dojo, Hokushin Itto Ryu.

There are many episodes about Ryoma. He was a patriot, a dreamer, a romanticist, a visionary, an ideologist, and an activist. He seemed to have 2 driving forces of his activities. They were; i) love and care, ii) optimism, and iii) vision.

i) Love and care; A legend tells that Ryoma was saying he wanted to create a country where people can live happily. He extended his love to his family, friends, people, and his country. He was a true patriot based on his love, which was almost close to God’s love.

ii) Optimism; People, who knew him, described him to be a smiling, open-minded, happy, and approachable person. He was always smiling and making others laugh by jokes. Even in the most perilous moment of activists meeting, he broke the ice by making attendees laugh.

iii) Vision; Among activists of modern Japan movement, there were not so many people who had a clear vision what country Japan should be after they overthrew Edo Shogun Government. Instead, Ryoma had a clear vision of Japan, Japanese society, and government after Shogun. They were in his document he wrote as 8 principles of the new government, including the establishment of 2 Congress, election of congressmen, equal treatment treaties with foreign countries, reformation of currency exchange rate.

It was so unfortunate that Shogun assassin killed him in December 1867, right after the end of Shogun government. He had not had a chance to participate in the new government, of which he dreamed.