We visited the Ryoma Sakamoto Museum (坂本龍馬) in Tosa during our trip to Shikoku island in Japan. The museum sit on top of the Katsuhara Park overseeing the Tosa bay and it was here when one of the first black ship arrived in 1800s that marked the start of the modernisation of Japan.
One of the most important historical icon of modern Japan
Ryoma Sakamoto was a prominent figure towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate that had ruled Japan for centuries. As a young man, he dreamed of modernising Japan and overthrowing the Shogunate, returning power to the Imperial.
Born in a Samurai family, Ryoma started learning swordsmanship since young and travelled to the capital Edo to refine his skills. Because of this little history, he was featured in many Samurai manga and it was through these that I learned about him.
Anti-shogunate sentiment was strong in the mid 1800s and Ryoma was greatly influenced by Western teachings. He felt that Japan needs opening up to embrace modernisation and industrialisation. Growing up in the Tosa bay of Shikoku, Ryoma had always love the sea and dreamed of travelling the world. Soon, he joined the Royal Navy and was instrumental in growing the fleet by introducing new methods in training young officers.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Ryoma Sakamoto was the success in bringing an alliance between two important factions of Japan at that time who both share similar ideology in bringing down the Shogunate. The group that formed would eventually be hugely responsible in overthrowing the Shoguns and leading Japan towards modernisation.
The other memorable achievement by Ryoma was his creation of the Eight-point Plan to modernise Japan. This pointers brought huge influence and created foundations for the National Assembly during the Meiji period after the downfall of Shogunate.
One of the reason for Ryoma Sakamoto huge popularity in Japan even today, was because he dead at a young age, of just 31 years old. Ryoma was assassinated, a common threat for influential figure at that time, in Kyoto on 10 December 1867. He did not live long enough to see his lifelong dream of a modern Japan.
Ryoma Sakamoto Museum
The Museum in Ryoma’s hometown Tosa was recently refurbished and featured many hand written works by the man himself. Many were letters that he wrote to his sister when he was away in Edo, which became important historic pieces to further understand the man.
As a Samurai, men at that time were carrying swords on their waist wherever they went.
Several years after Ryoma’s death, with the start of the Meiji era, swords were banned and Samurais were slowly hunted down by the Imperial armies. Soon, the last of the Samurais finally went extinct as Japan marched towards Westernisation with guns and cannons.
A big replica of the Navy ship is in display at the museum. This is presumably one of the type of Naval fleet commanded by Ryoma during his stint in the Royal Navy. The navy was, however, disbanded by the Shogunate during that time, as they felt it was a threat to their existence. After leaving the Navy, Ryoma Sakamoto had, ironically, more time to focus in anti-shogunate movement.
Cartoons drawing in the museum to teach young children on the modernisation of Japan during that period.
Interactive games like steering a ship but those were in Japanese and we couldn’t figure out how to play.
There is a roof garden at the museum where visitors can see the sea in Tosa bay, reliving the moment of Ryoma Sakamoto younger days. It was rumoured Ryoma would spend hours doing nothing but staring into the sea.
Ryoma Sakamoto is constantly ranked among the top in surveys for elementary school children “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”
His legacy had been passed on by being featured in many movies, TV shows, anime and manga.
Beside the museum is the Katsuharama Park and an aquarium. We did not have time to visit though. A much bigger Ryoma statue can also be found in the park.
Ryoma Sakamato was the pride of every Japanese, especially the people of Tosa, so it is naturally a museum of him would be built here. However, there are other museum of this historical figure in other parks of Japan too, like in Kyoto (ancient Edo), where he spent most of his adult life in.
If you like Ryoma Sakamoto, be sure to visit this museum when you are in Kochi or Shikoku.