Japan // Shikoku //

Sakamoto Ryoma

You’d have to be blind to miss the scowling features of Kōchi’s favourite son, Sakamoto Ryōma, on posters and other memorabilia around the city. Born in 1835 to a half-samurai, half-farmer family, Sakamoto directly challenged the rigid class structure of the Shogunate years by leaving Kōchi to start a trading company in Nagasaki (samurai never normally dirtied their hands in business). In his travels around Japan, he gathered support for his pro-Imperial views, eventually forcing the shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, to agree to give supreme power back to the emperor. But one month later, on November 15, 1867, Sakamoto was assassinated in Kyoto. Although he was just 33 at the time, his writings included an enlightened plan for a new political system for Japan, aspects of which were later embraced by the Meiji government.