“Really?!” Voices of disbelief come from surrounding students.
Although everyone assumed that descendants of Ryoma Sakamoto live somewhere in Japan, they were surprised to learn that the mild-mannered young man in front of their eyes was one such descendant.
A young woman who is a self-professed fan of Ryoma raised her hand and said that she knew the date on which the Edo Period patriot died.
“That’s right, November 15,” confirmed Ryoya upon hearing her answer.
Ryoya is a second-year student in the Faculty of Law. He seeks to become a legal professional and is a member of the Hakko Kai, a federation of academic research groups. When not in class, Ryoya spends his days studying at the campus research building Honoh-no-Tou (Tower of Light).
Ryoya first learned that he was a descendant of Ryoma Sakamoto when he was in the upper grades of elementary school. When working on a project which required students to write about their personal history, Ryoya learned about his ancestry from his mother.
“Actually, I had already suspected my relation to Ryoma,” he says.
The name of Ryoma frequently came up in conversations by his grandfather Noboru and his father Masahiro, both of whom were constantly busy in their roles as sightseeing ambassadors and officials at Ryoma fan clubs. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Satcho Alliance which was mediated by Ryoma. Ryoya’s grandfather has even given lectures in New York, USA.
“I had a vague idea of my ancestry,” says Ryoya. Indeed, his mother once said that he was named after an ancestor, and his younger brother’s name is Yuma.
Upon learning of his ancestry, Ryoya developed a strong interest in Ryoma. He read the manga Hello! Ryoma (written by Tetsuya Takeda and illustrated by Yu Koyama) and the full-length novel Ryoma-ga-Yuku (written by Ryotaro Shiba). On Sunday evenings, he watched the NHK Taiga drama series Ryoma-den (starring Masaharu Fukuyama) together with his family. Each scene of Ryoma’s great achievements featured by media caused Ryoya’s blood to tingle with excitement.
In order to construct a brighter future for Japan, Ryoma worked to form the Satcho Alliance and to restore imperial rule. His ultimate goal was to peacefully overthrow the Shogunate. According to the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum, Ryoma listened attentively to the opinions of people in different positions. He possessed a flexible way of thinking and was adept at absorbing useful concepts. Furthermore, his ability to take action enabled him to achieve success in endeavors which had been thought to be impossible. Ryoma also possessed an outstanding personal network.
There are numerous historical books and other publications concerning Ryoma. Ryoya read such books from his family’s collection and sometimes went to the public library to find more.
At the library check-out counter, staff sometimes looked closely at Ryoya’s face after noticing that his last name was Sakamoto and that he was checking out books on Ryoma Sakamoto. Ryoya avoided checking out books on Ryoma Sakamoto from his school library because he didn’t want people to know what he was reading.
In accordance with Ryoma’s wishes, ancestors of the Sakamoto household moved their entire family from Tosa to Yezo and then worked to develop Yezo.
Wrapping paper for Rokkatei, designed by Ryoya’s great-grandfather
Ryoya’s great-grandfather Naoyuki was an artist who painted the mountains of Hokkaido. Naoyuki is also known for having designed the wrapping paper used by Rokkatei, a famous shop selling Japanese confectionaries in Hokkaido. The design features local flowers (rhododendrons, Thurber’s magnolia, etc.) and wildflowers against a white background. Some fans of Naoyuki’s artwork use his pictures as covers for books.
Actually, Ryoya has never been to Ryoma’s birthplace in Kochi Prefecture.
“I fully intend to go there sometime,” he says with great conviction.
Kochi Ryoma Airport (officially known as Kochi Airport) provides access from the air. At Katsurahama Beach, the statue of Ryoma gazing out over the Pacific Ocean is majestic.
As a descendant of Ryoma, Ryoya has a mission in life. At some point, he will begin conducting activities with his father as the 11th generation of the Sakamoto family.
“As a descendant of Ryoma, I feel the need to carve out a life which rivals that of my distinguished ancestor,” says Ryoya.
The spirit of Ryoma lives on in Ryoya.
- A legal professional who is kind to people
- Ryoya decided to become a legal professional after taking an elementary school class entitled “What is Law?” This class taught Ryoya that laws exist to protect people.
“Until taking that class, I thought that laws existed solely to prohibit people from doing certain things,” says Ryoya. He seeks to become a legal professional who is kind to people.
- Everyone hearing of his ancestry is surprised
- Ryoya once went to Jingu Stadium with his father in order to cheer for Chuo University at a Tohto University Baseball League spring game between Chuo University and Kokugakuin University. The game took place during the Golden Week holiday period in May and the stands were packed. During a break in the game, Ryoya was introduced in the stands filled by Chuo fans. Everyone in the cheering section was surprised. “Everyone seemed really shocked,” recalls Ryoya. In fact, Ryoya may have been the only one that remained calm!