The purpose of this article is to let you know how to get to the places I've visited which are related to Ryoma Sakamoto (1836 - 1867), one of the most beloved Japanese heroes of all time. Before getting into the access info, however, a little introduction of our hero, and MY hero, is needed here, isn't it?
Why is Ryoma still so popular?
It's simple. He is popular because his life was cool! Why cool? you may ask. He is cool because he was quite unique and insightful. As you may know, he was one of many revolutionary samurai who tried to reform Japan. But his uniqueness lies in the way he thought and acted in the still insulate, feudal Japan. There were many samurai who left their footsteps in Japan's history around the time of the Meiji Reformation (1868). Yet, while other distinguished samurai such as Takamori Saigo, Toshimichi Okubo, Kogoro Katsura (later called Takayoshi Kido) played a big role in changing Japan from a closed, feudal country into an open, modern country, they were nonetheless trapped by the old way of thinking that their hans (feudal domain they belonged to ) should come first. Ryoma, on the other hand, considered that entire area of Japan as one country, and tried to unite each domain together to counteract the incoming Western powers. He was also an intermediary, hoping to solve the sour relationship between Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima) and Choshu (present-day Yamaguchi), two powerful hans who had the power to overthrow Tokugawa Shogunate if they were united, and instead got them allied together to overturn the old feudal system of Japan.
Why was Ryoma assassinated?
The true reason why he was assassinated or by whom has never been proven. But it's been speculated that his way of thinking was too far ahead of the times and most people's way of thinking. But even Tokugawa Shogunate, the enemy of Ryoma's revolutionary group, was not an enemy to him at all.
Ryoma tried to include the last Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, in the new Meiji government, which was said to be one of the reasons Ryoma was assassinated just a month before the Meiji Restoration. Not many samurai could follow his democratic, advanced way of thinking. Anyway, this assassination made his life look more dramatic and heroic, of course. Thus, he has gone on to receive a never-ending admiration and popularity with the Japanese people.
How to access Ryoma-related places
I have visited some places that are related to MY hero, Ryoma Sakamoto, and have written a series of photo essays about the places. Following are details on how to get to each of the places. For more details about each location, please click on the words in blue.
1. Katsurahama Beach This was the playground of Ryoma in his childhood. His wide perspective was cultivated by looking out at the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean from this beach.
From JR Kochi station BUS = Take the Ken-kotsu bus (orange) bound for Katsurahama bus stop, get off at Katsurahama (30 min., 670 yen). Also, one stop before the end of the line is Ryoma Kinenkan Mae (Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum), where there is a great Ryoma-related exhibit.
From Kochi Ryoma Airport BUS = Take 'Airport Communication Bus', get off at Harimaya-bashi (bridge) bus stop (40 min., 700 yen), take the Ken-kotsu bus (orange) bound for Katsurahama at Minami Harimaya-bashi bus stop, get off at Katsurahama bus stop (final destination, 30 min., 610 yen).
TAXI = 25 min; 3,700 - 4100 yen; from Kochi Ryoma Airport
2. Kyoto Teradaya Inn This is the place Ryoma was attacked and badly wounded by over 100 policemen dispatched by Tokugawa Shogunate. He survived the raid with the help of his future wife Oryo, who ran to inform him of the coming danger naked (she was taking a bath). How romantic!TRAIN = Get off at Chushojima Station on Keihan Line, walk 5 min. BUS = Get off at Kyobashi bus stop on Kyoto City Bus, walk 2 min. TAXI = 15 min; from JR Kyoto station.3. Mt. Kirishima and Kirishima Shrine This is the place Ryoma and his newly-wedded wife Oryo honeymooned. After the incident at Teradaya Inn, Ryoma traveld to Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima) upon an invitation from Takamori Saigo, the leader of Satsuma samurai, to recuperate in the hotsprings. This trip of Ryoma is said to be the first honeymoon made by a Japanese couple.
From JR Kagoshima station TRAIN = JR Nippo Honsen bound for Miyazaki Jingu, or JR Kirishima Express; get off at Kirishima Jingu (shrine). About 50 min.
4. Ryoma's Tomb in Kyoto Ryoma is buried in the cemetery inside the shrine (Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine) with 1,355 samurai who gave their lives for the Meiji Restoration. In 1868, the Meiji Emperor ordered that the shrine be built in their honor. Ryoma is buried side by side with Shintaro Nakaoka, who was assassinated with him in 1867 at Omiya Inn in Kyoto. The Ryozen Museum of History is next to the shrine.
BUS = Take Kyoto City Bus #80, #202, #206 or #207, get off at Higashiyama Yasui bus stop, walk 10 min. Access Map is here.
5. Ryoma Memorial Park on Kamigoto Island This is the place where Ryoma visited to pray for friends who had died in a shipwreck off the coast of this island. A ship of the trading company Ryoma founded (Kameyama-Shachu, later Kaientai) sank in the sea off Kamigoto Island in 1866, which devastated him, and so he visited the island a year before he was assassinated to pray for the lost souls. Public transportation on the island is almost nonexistent. Renting a car or hiring a tourist taxi is highly recommended.
SPEED BOAT/FERRY BOAT From Nagasaki Port to Taino-ura Port (1.5 hours) From Sasebo Port to Arikawa Port (1.5 to 2.5 hours) From Arikawa Port to Ryoma Memorial Park = 20 min. by car
From JR Fukui Station Just a 10-minute walk and you'll be in the open spaces of the Asuwa riverbank where Ryoma's stone monument and the statue of Yuri Kimimasa stand.
Enjoy your trips as you search for the essence of our beloved hero, Ryoma Sakamoto!