- Who Was Ryoma Sakamoto?
- Recommended For Beginners! Take A Tour Of Ryoma’s Birthplace【Kochi City Edition】
- ＞10:00 Start At Ryoma’s Birthplace
- ＞11:30 See The Statues Of The Three Patriotic Warriors At Kochi Station
- ＞12:00 Become Ryoma and Join His Bakumatsu Era Activists From “The Legend of Ryoma”
- ＞13:30 Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum
- ＞15:30 Gaze Upon The “World” That Ryoma Saw With Ryoma’s Statue At Katsurahama
- Kochi City, Full of Ryoma-Related Events!
Ryoma Sakamoto (1836-1867), a samurai who is known as the hero of the Bakumatsu period, is beloved by both Japanese and foreign history fans. Possessing new ideas of freedom, and having the innate ability to bring people together, Sakamoto contributed greatly to the modernization of Japan.
In this article, we will introduce a route that will allow you to traverse to places in Ryoma Sakamoto’s hometown of Kochi City that have a deep connection to his history. This route is full of famous places that will be easy to visit for those who are not well-acquainted with Ryoma’s history. From his birthplace of Kamimachi, to Katsurahama, where his bronze statue looks over the Pacific Ocean, let’s go on a journey to discover the history of Ryoma Sakamoto!
Who Was Ryoma Sakamoto?
First, let’s take a quick look at both the upbringing and image of Ryoma Sakamoto.
A Timid Young Boy
Ryoma’s Image Can Be Found Throughout His Place of Birth
Ryoma was born in the year 1836 to the Sakamoto family, a band of country samurai located in modern day Kanimachi in Kochi City. The Sakamoto family was a branch of the wealthy merchant Saitaniya family, who operated a distillery and dry-good business. Ryoma was raised as a second son surrounded by luxury.
Ryoma’s birthplace of Kanimachi was a town mainly inhabited by lower-class warriors and craftsmen. Although Ryoma is often seen as being cheerful and lighthearted, it is said that he was actually a bit of a crybaby as a young child. He was taught martial arts and how to study by his older sister by three years, Otome, and entered the nearby Hineno Dojo at the age of 14. Once he began his training, Ryoma quickly became adept at swordplay.
Ability Comes Into Bloom In Adolescence
At age 19, Ryoma went to Edo to further his learning, where he expanded his knowledge of swordplay and Western studies, and increased his contacts and connections.
While in Edo, Ryoma came into contact with the slogan “Protect The Emperor, Defend Against Foreign Enemies”, part of an ideology that was popular at the time, advocating reverence for the Emperor and the removal of foreigners from Japan. Upon returning to Tosa, he joined the patriotic Tosa Royalists at the age of 27, a group focused on protecting the Japanese homeland. The following year, he left Tosa and became a lordless samurai.
The locations on route that Ryoma used as a lordless samurai have become very popular tourist spots in Kochi Prefecture. By driving an hour and a half on the highway out of Kochi City, you can find the town Yusuharacho, where you can take a tour to walk on the same exact route Ryoma used on his journey.
The “Irohamaru”, Borrowed From Iyo Kokudai Oosu By Kaientai (From Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum Exhibit)
Afterwards, Ryoma met a supporter of opening Japan’s borders, whose ideal of “Protecting a country where trade can be conducted to the fullest extent” left a deep impression on him. Ryoma became his apprentice, and created the first trading company in Japan, “ Kameya Shachu“ (which would later become known as “Kaientai”). His leadership activity at the firm exceeded the standards of what was considered normal at the time.
The Character And Wisdom To Connect People
At age 32, Ryoma was able to repair the bad relations between Choshu (modern day Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Satsuma (modern day Kagoshima Prefecture) to create the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance.
Ryoma had different ideals from the Emperor and Government, and often came into conflict with them. However, after seeing the weak state of Japan compared to foreign governments, he realized that “If Japan continues to go on like this, we will be swallowed up by the stronger foreign powers”. He then collaborated with the leaders in Japan to create a new government, eventually resulting in the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance.
The establishment of the Satsuma-Choshu alliance is Ryoma’s greatest achievement, and is still spoken of to this day.
The Satsuma-Choshu Alliance, Ryoma’s Greatest Accomplishment (From the Ryoma Sakamoto Memorial Exhibit)
It is said that the reasons for Ryoma being able to complete this monumental task were “his charming character that was beloved by men and women alike”, and “his ability to take his new knowledge of Western science and military and put it into words people could understand in order to connect them”. Although Ryoma Sakamoto was assassinated in 1867, at the dawn of the Meiji Period, the historical story of this great figure still continues to charm people to this today.
Recommended For Beginners! Take A Tour Of Ryoma’s Birthplace【Kochi City Edition】
When looking back at the life of Ryoma, one sees a person that was a free-thinker and a communicator.
Now, let’s begin our “Journey Of The Age and History Of Ryoma Sakamoto”, which kicks off from his birthplace of Kanimachi. On this route, we will depart from Ryoma’s hometown of Kanimachi, meet his friends that lived with him in Kochi, read the documents that influenced his thinking, and take in a view of the Pacific Ocean that Ryoma once did.
You can easily travel around the inner area of Kochi City, so make sure to visit the following spots on your sightseeing travels!
Using The Streetcar Or Bus To Visit All The Best Spots Is Highly Recommended!
10:00 Ryoma’s Birthplace, Kanamachi - “Ryoma's Birthplace Stone Monument”, “Sakamoto Ryoma's Hometown Museum”
↓（Bus or Streetcar - Approx. 10 Minutes）
11:30 「Kochi Station」Ryoma’s Statue「Kochi Travel Plaza」- See Ryoma’s Childhood Home and the “Statues Of The Three Patriotic Warriors”
↓（Approx. 30 Minutes By Bus, Five Minute Walk ）
13:30 「Ryoma Sakamoto Memorial」
↓（Approx. 15 Minute Walk）
16:00 Katsurahama・Statue of Ryoma
10:00 Start At Ryoma’s Birthplace
”Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument” Near Kanimachi Hospital
If the hotel you are staying at is near Obiyamachi in Kochi City, take a walk over to “Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument”. The monument can be found next to Kanimachi Hospital in Kanimachi 2-Chome, National Highway No. 33, just in front of the National Highway No. 33 historical information signboard.
Next, the “Sakamoto Ryoma's Hometown Museum” is a five minute walk from Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument. The museum contains a reproduction of the townspace of Ryoma’s birthplace and four-chamber theater for reliving episodes from Ryoma’s childhood. These experiences will introduce the family and town that helped create the man known as Ryoma Sakamoto.
Learn How Ryoma Spent His Time From Early Childhood To Adolescence
This museum, located in Ryoma’s birthplace of Kanimachi, is a must visit sightseeing spot for those coming to Kochi City. Ryoma’s ability to create connections between people across social barriers may have been formed from the soil of Kanimachi and the support of his family. There is no English course, but tourist information is provided by volunteer guides in English.
■ Access Information for “Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument” and “Sakamoto Ryoma's Hometown Museum”
Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument：Walk Or Take Streetcar From Inner-City →【Kanimachi 1-Chome】Train Stop / Bus Stop → Walk（Approx. One Minute）
Sakamoto Ryoma's Hometown Museum：Walk From Stone Monument（Approx. 3 Minutes）
11:30 See The Statues Of The Three Patriotic Warriors At Kochi Station
After studying the upbringing of Ryoma in his place of birth, let’s head to Kochi Station. Take the streetcar to Kochi Station, and you will be greeted by a large group of statues. These statues in the plaza in front of Kochi Station are known as “The Three Patriotic Warriors of Tosa”. The “Three Patriotic Warriors of Tosa”, from left to right, portray the visages of Hanpeita Takechi, Ryoma Sakamoto, and Shintaro Nakaoka. These three warriors were heroes of the Tosa domain during the Bakumatsu period.
The Statues Of The Three Patriotic Warriors Lined Up In Front of Kochi Station
Hanpeita Takechi studied swordplay at the same dojo as Ryoma at a young age, and formed the “Tosa Loyalist Faction” in order to expel foreigners from the area. Ryoma was a member of the faction in its initial stages. However, the ideals of Hanpeita and Ryoma began to differ as Ryoma began to accept the ideals of opening up Japan to foreigners. As a result, Hanpeita continued on as faction head by promoting the ideology of protecting the Emperor and expelling foreigners in Kyoto. Alongside the decay of loyalism in Japan, pressure began to mount against the Tosa Loyalist Faction, leading to Hanpeita being imprisoned and committing ritual suicide.
Shintaro Nakaoka was attacked alongside Ryoma in the Oumiya Incident in 1867. Shintaro became a member of Hanpeita’s dojo and allied with the Tosa Loyalist Faction in order to promote patriotic activity. However, he became a lordless samurai after pressure began to build against the faction. Shintaro then worked tirelessly with Ryoma to help meditate the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance. In the Oumiya Incident, Ryoma died almost immediately after being attacked. However, Shintaro was able to survive for two days, and it is said that he spoke about the circumstances regarding the assassination attack.
The statues of the Three Patriotic Warriors of Tosa, created in dedication to their achievements, are now very popular photo spots for tourists. While the statues are quite intense in appearance, the statues are actually made of styrofoam. As typhoons often pass through Kochi Prefecture, the statues were made so they could be easily moved in the case of strong winds.
■Access Information - “Kochi Station”
Walk From “Sakamoto Ryoma's Hometown Museum”（Approx. 2 Minutes）→Get On Bus At【Kanimachi 1-Chome】 Bus Stop → Get Off Bus At【Kochiekimae】(Approx 10. Minutes）
12:00 Become Ryoma At The Station Pavillion
Recreation of Ryoma’s Home, Including His Room and Kitchen
Since you have come all the way to Kochi Station, make sure to check out the pavillion inside the “Kochi Travel Plaza”, a spacious area located in front of the station.
Here, you can find a re-creation of Ryoma’s house that was used in the NHK Taiga drama broadcast in 2010, “The Legend of Ryoma”. You can also put on Ryoma’s clothes and take a photo of yourself as Ryoma among his fellow Bakumatsu activists.
Take A Commemorative Photo In “Ryoma” and “Dragon” Clothing
In addition, there is also a rest space, souvenir store, and a tourist information facility located inside the pavillion.
When thinking of Tosa cooking, katsuo first comes to mind. The standard “katsuo no tataki”, as well as the popular salted “shio tataki” are available to eat here. The “haranbo”, or fatty portion of the katsuo stomach, is also available here - a special item now often found outside Kochi Prefecture. We also recommend “Tosa Maki”, which is a maki-zushi consisting of tataki, garlic and ginger.
13:30 Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum
Let’s now move on from the bus-filled Kochi Station to Katsurahama.
Upon arriving at Katsurahama, head on over to the “Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum”, which was renovated and reopened in 2018. This unique building exterior was constructed so that the memorial appears to extend out into the Pacific Ocean. This statue refers to a story where Ryoma extended his hand to greet his enemies Goto Shojiro and Hokan Taisei.
This Stylish Building Leaves Quite An Impression. You Can See Ryoma’s Statue To The Right Of The Picture.
In the new building’s permanent exhibition, the document created by Ryoma establishing “Kaientai”, the first corporation of Japan, and a pistol Ryoma received from Shinsaku Takasugi are on display. There is also a reproduction of the folding screens and hanging scrolls of Oumiya, the place where Ryoma was assassinated - the 53 traces of blood on the folding screens help tell the story of the scene of the assassination.
Additionally, many letters from Ryoma addressed to his brothers and sisters that convey his humor and idealism are also on display. One of Ryoma’s most famous statements can be found in these letters to his siblings: “I want to clean up Japan”.
There Are Many Different Exhibits Set Up, Including This Picture-Changing Rudder
The main building’s “Bakumatsu Plaza” contains exhibits portraying Ryoma’s life and his meeting with the patriotic warriors of the Bakumatsu period. A model ship and reproduction of the assassination scene at Oumiya allows you to get to know Ryoma while experiencing the important parts of his life.
The museum exhibits, which includes temporary exhibitions, are fully loaded with information and fun experiences. Another impressive area is the view of the Pacific Ocean from the roof or second floor of the museum. Staring out at the ocean is a great way to rest after a day full of walking.
■ Access Information - “Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum“
【Kochiekimae】Bus Stop → Tosaden Public Bus / To Katsuhama【Katsuhama】Get Off At Bus Stop (Approx 30 Minutes), Then Walk (Five Minutes)
15:30 Gaze Upon The “World” That Ryoma Saw With Ryoma’s Statue At Katsurahama
For Your Final Stop, Meet Ryoma’s Statue At Katsurahama
Sakamoto Ryoma’s Statue At Katsurahama
Once you have had your full of the memorial museum, go to see Ryoma’s famous statue in Katsurahama. The statue is a 15 minute walk from the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum. Ryoma’s statue, which looks out upon the Pacific Ocean, is said to imitate the gaze of Ryoma as he looked out to the rest of the world.
If you go down onto the beach, you can see a Shinto archway standing out past the sand. Here you can find Dragon King Palace of Shimoryuuzuzaki, which provides a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. If you have time, we recommend visiting the Katsurahama Aquarium, or taking in the Harvest Moon at Katsurahama’s “Famous Moon Viewing Spots”.
Take It Slow And Gaze At The Moon From The Beach
There is also a souvenir store at Katsurahama, called “Ryoma’s Beach Teahouse”, where you can purchase Ryoma-related goods. These goods include t-shirts, key holders, and mug-cups that portray the likeness of Ryoma. Make sure to take a look at the other goods, like the katsuo and snack products. Once you’re finished, get back on the bus to return to the city.
”Ryoma’s Beach Teahouse”, Which Opened In 2017
Kochi City, Full of Ryoma-Related Events!
Kochi Prefecture gave birth to one of the great figures of Japan, Sakamoto Ryoma. At Kochi “Ryoma” Airport, a statue of Ryoma greets you at the first floor, and appears again in posters and signboards throughout Kochi. Make sure to keep an eye out for Ryoma during your Kochi sightseeing.
Moreover, many different events related to Ryoma are held in Kochi City throughout the year. Check out the information regarding these events before travelling to Kochi Prefecture.
Nickname “Kochi Ryoma Airport” Has Been Used Since 2003. This Is The First Time A Person’s Name Was Used In an Airport’s Name in Japan.
February’s “Ryoma Marathon”
The “Ryoma Marathon” is a 42.195km full marathon. The marathon course uses a similar route to the one Ryoma used when he travelled to gaze out at the Pacific Ocean. This marathon becomes more popular year after year due to Kochi’s nature, food, and warm support from bystanders. Entries are accepted in September, and the marathon is conducted in February of the following year.
November’s “Ryoma Festival”, Held All Over Kochi
The “Ryoma Festival in Katsurahama” is held in Katsurahama Park on the Sunday nearest to November 15th, which is both the birth date and death anniversary of Ryoma Sakamoto. Ryoma-themed workshops and exhibits, as well as energetic dance performance and stamp rallies allow for a charming and fun experience for families.
The centerpiece of the Ryoma Festival is the “Get Close To Ryoma” event, where a platform is built next to the bronze Ryoma statue in Katsurahama. This allows festival-goers to look upon the Pacific Ocean the same way Ryoma did. This yearly event does not happen on the day of the festival, but from September to the end of November.
Map of Tosa’s Famous Spots（Via Tosa Terrace）
Other events related to Ryoma are held in November throughout Kochi. The “Ryoma’s Road Two Day Walk in Kochi” walking event, which takes participants from Ryoma Sakamoto’s birthplace to Katsurahama and Warei Shrine, and Ryoma’s Birthday Festival, which occurs at Ryoma’s Birthplace Stone Monument and Kochi City Central Park, shows the constant enthusiasm for Ryoma inside Kochi Prefecture.
Search For Ryoma Sakamoto In Kochi City
Take a quick trip to these Ryoma-related areas. The largehearted, free-thinking Ryoma-like men and determined, resolute women you meet on your journey will allow you to experience the true spirit of the people of Kochi Prefecture.
Finally, see the Japan and world Ryoma saw by experiencing the town, ocean, and sky through his eyes.