Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬)

Revolutionist

Ryoma SAKAMOTO (Jan.3, 1836-Dec.10, 1867) is a Japanese statesman and businessperson in the end of Edo era. After having fled from Tosa clan he acted as a royalist, exerting himself into establishing Kameyama-shachu, later Kaientai (a society of master less samurai), a mixture of a trading company and a political organization, mediating collaboration between Satsuma and Choshu, and realizing Taisei-hokan (the Restoration of the Imperial rule).
conferred the official title: Senior Fourth Rank
He has gained a national reputation as a popular person since Ryotaro SHIBA had made him the leading character in his novel "Ryoma ga Yuku." There are also multilateral arguments on his vestiges.

His posthumous name is Naokage, which was later changed to Naonari. Ryoma is a popular name. He had some aliases, such as Umetaro SAITANI. There is no doubt that his first name was pronounced as "Ryoma" considering that the kanji of his first name is pronounced "Ryoma" according to "Kan-on" (the Han reading of a kanji) although pronounced "Ryuma" according to "Kan-yo on" (the special Japanese reading) (see "Kojien" the fifth edition), that his contemporaries wrote down in their diaries and letters the kanji of the phonetic equivalent of "Ryoma" to refer to Ryoma, and that Ryoma himself sometimes added his signature reading "Riyofu" to his letters. Regarding the kanji character for "Ryo," the old-style character is also commonly used for Ryoma partly because Ryotaro SHIBA used the old style in his novel "Ryoma ga Yuku" and the old-style character was selected as a "Kanji Designated for Everyday Use" although Ryoma himself never used the old-style character.

He became famed after his death rather than in life. Although he appears frequently in various novels and dramas such as Ryotaro SHIBA's, there are many who mention that these images are away from factual Ryoma. Particularly among historians there are many who point out this difference, one of the representatives being Rei MATSUURA. Refer to "Verification: The Legend of Ryoma" by Rei MATSUURA (Ronsosha, 2001), "Ryotaro SHIBA's "Ryoma ga Yuku" by Takamasa IKEDA ("Rekishi Hyoron" (History Review) 317, 1976), and "Ryoma's Persona and the Real Nature - Ryotaro SHIBA's "Ryoma ga Yuku" - by Hisao ITOYA (Rekishi Hyoron" (History Review 317, 1976)). The representatives of historians who wrote the biography of Ryoma are Michio HIRAO, Takamasa IKEDA, and Masamichi ASUKAI. For further details, refer to "Literature" clause.

The life of Ryoma

At the age of 12, Ryoma started studying at Kusuyama-juku private school in Kodakasaka but he left school later. At the age of 14, he enrolled in Benji HINENO's dojo, a martial arts school, in Kochi castle town and learned the swordsmanship of the Oguri-ryu style that the lower-rank samurai learns.

Ryoma's mother, Sachi, died in 1846.

In 1853, Ryoma moved to Edo (Tokyo) to master swordsmanship, and joined the dojo of Sadakichi CHIBA (commonly known as Kochiba dojo in Chiyoda-ku Ward, Tokyo), whose elder brother is Shusaku CHIBA, the founder of the Hokushin Itto-ryu style at Oke-cho. In December, 1853, Ryoma also went to the Shozan SAKUMA's private school.

In 1854, Ryoma returned to hometown in Tosa. He learned the Western affairs from a painter, Shoryo KAWADA.

Ryoma's father, Hachihei, died in 1855.

Ryoma left home to join again the Sadakichi's dojo in Edo in 1856.

In 1857, Ryoma let one of his peers Takuma SAWABE go, who was forced to commit seppuku (ritual hara-kiri suicide) for stealing.

In 1858, Ryoma returned home finishing his swordsmanship training. Ryoma is said to have been conferred the full mastership of the Hokushin Itto-ryu style, but in fact he was conferred a "certificate of the art of war using a long-handled sword in the Hokushin Itto-ryu style"; what he mastered is not a commonly-termed swordplay but correctly a long-handled sword tactics; and the certificate was not a license or a diploma certifying full mastership but the "first certificate," the lowest-ranked certificate for the Hokushin Itto-ryu style. But considering the fact that Ryoma once became president of the disciples of the Chiba dojo and that his contemporaries testified to the fact that Ryoma was conferred the full mastership, the certificate of the full mastership actually conferred upon him is thought to be no longer exist (some of the personal mementos left by Ryoma have been lost by disaster or theft). For details on the opinion of the "certificate of the art of war using a long-handled sword in the Hokushin Itto-ryu style" being a certificate for long-handled sword, refer to "My First Sight of Ryoma SAKAMOTO's Letter and Certificate of the Art of War Using a Long-handled Sword in the Hokushin Itto-ryu Style" by Tsukasa MATSUOKA ("Japanese History" 454, 1986) and "The Hokushin Itto-ryu Style and its Full Mastership" by Haruo DOI ("Encyclopedia of Ryoma SAKAMOTO" Shin-Jinbutsuoraisha, 1988).

In March, 1861, Iguchi-mura village sword wound incident occurred in Tosa, which deepened conflict between the lower-rank samurai to which Ryoma belonged and the upper-rank samurai (refer to "Ishin Tosa Kinnoshi" (History of Support of the Emperor in Tosa during the Restoration), which reads "SAKAMOTO and other lower-rank samurai temporarily gathered at IKEDA's house and showed their enthusiasm to fight against the upper-rank samurai"). There is an anecdote that Ryoma assisted Toranoshin IKEDA, who was blamed for the incident and was forced commit seppuku (ritual hara-kiri suicide), in committing seppuku by beheading him and Ryoma pledged solidarity among the lower-rank samurai wetting his sword knot with Toranoshin's blood, but this anecdote is a fiction appearing in Shiran SAKAZAKI's novel "Kanketsu Senri no Koma." Six months later, the lower-rank samurai formed Tosa Kinnoto making Zuizan TAKECHI the leader, and Ryoma became the ninth member (the first member in Tosa). In October, Ryoma headed to Choshu as a confidential agent for TAKECHI, and in next February Ryoma met Genzui KUSAKA.

It is not known exactly why Ryoma fled from Tosa clan with Sonojo SAWAMURA in March, 1862, but some point out that it is because Ryoma opposed Zuizan TAKECHI's policy to attempt to assassinate Toyo YOSHIDA. Refer to "Ryoma SAKAMOTO" by Masamichi ASUKAI (Heibonsha, 1975) and "Taisei-hokan (the Restoration of the Imperial rule) and Confidential Imperial Order to Overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate" by Yoshihisa ISHIO (San-ichi Shobo, 1979). Immediately thereafter, the assassination of Toyo YOSHIDA by Kinnoto occurred, and at the beginning Ryoma was suspected as the assassin. After having wandered in Kyushu, Ryoma went to Edo and stayed at the Chiba dojo; "Ishin Tosa Kinnoshi (History of Support of the Emperor in Tosa during the Restoration)" reads "Ryoma traveled to Edo as free as the wind, and settled down in the place of Jutaro CHIBA, an old friend of his, located at Okecho outside Kajibashi." Later, Ryoma met Director of Political Affairs of the Shogunate, Shungaku MATSUDAIRA, through Jutaro CHIBA. Regarding the fact that with a referral from Shungaku, Ryoma met Kaishu KATSU and became a disciple of KATSU in December, one theory has it that Ryoma met KATSU to kill him but there are lots of different theories and the correct historical evidence has not yet been confirmed. However, it is true that many met KATSU to kill him but were admonished instead to end up becoming disciples of KATSU. There are other various theories as to when Ryoma became a disciple of KATSU and with whom Ryoma went to meet KATSU. These various theories are described in detail in "Kaishu KATSU" by Toru HARUNA ("Encyclopedia of Ryoma SAKAMOTO" Shin-Jinbutsuoraisha, 1988).

In 1863, Ryoma exerted himself into establishing Kobe Navy Training Center that KATSU promoted and Ryoma became president of the trainees of Kobe Navy School opened earlier than the Training Center, but some historians including Rei MATSUURA who is eminent as the researcher of Kaishu KATSU are skeptical about the theory of Ryoma being president of the trainees.

For details, refer to "Verification: The Legend of Ryoma" by Rei MATSUURA (Ronsosha, 2001), and "Dream for the Navy Jointly Owned by Asian-countries, Shared with Mentor" by Yusuke HAMAGUCHI ("New Historical Figures Series (4) Creation of the Restoration Ryoma SAKAMOTO" GAKKEN, 2006). Efforts made by KATSU and Shungaku MATSUDAIRA encouraged the lord of the Tosa clan, Yodo YAMAUCHI, to condone Ryoma's charge of fleeing from the Tosa clan. At around that time, Ryoma appointed the murderer in Kinnoto, Izo OKADA, to be a bodyguard for KATSU. The political change on August 18 expelled Sonno joi (revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians) royalists from Kyoto, which resulted in destruction in Tosa Kinnoto by the Tosa clan. The Tosa clan's oppression extended to Ryoma in Edo, and therefore Ryoma fled from the Tosa clan again.

In 1864, Kobe Navy Training Center was founded, but some researchers point out that Ryoma might not have been able to enroll in the Center partly because master less samurai was not entitled to enroll ("Verification: The Legend of Ryoma" by Rei MATSUURA). At around that time, Ryoma started an emigration plan to Ezochi (Hokkaido) to try to save the Sonno joi (revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians) royalists in Kyoto, where the oppression was escalating, but this plan was derailed after the occurrence of Ikedaya incident. Since a number of the Navy School trainees fought on the Choshu side in Kinmon no hen incident as a reprisal for Ikedaya incident, the Navy School was cracked down on by the Shogunate and KATSU was removed from his position. Although Ryoma lost support from KATSU, Ryoma asked Kichinosuke SAIGO (Takamori SAIGO) for help on referral from KATSU, and Ryoma was harbored at Satsuma clan's house in Osaka, on which some point out that Satsuma clan helped Ryoma because they thought that Ryoma would be of vital use to navigation skills ("Verification: The Legend of Ryoma" by Rei MATSUURA).

In 1865, Shintaro NAKAOKA and other royalists visited Ryoma who moved to Satsuma clan's house in Kyoto. At around that time Ryoma together with NAKAOKA started working on the achievement for Satsuma-Choshu Alliance. With the assistance of Satsuma clan, Ryoma together with his peers who also fled from Tosa clan established shachu (Kameyama-shachu, later Kaientai (ronin's association)) in Nagasaki and carried on trade of goods and arms. In this year, Ryoma achieved a crucial mission entrusted by Toshimichi OKUBO and Takamori SAIGO to deliver an OKUBO's letter, which is famous for its phrase, "Unjustifiable Imperial order is not Imperial order," to the Choshu clan's high-ranking official. "Politics in the End of Edo Era and Satsuma Clan" by Suguru SASAKI (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2004).

In January, 1866, the meeting between Kogoro KATSURA (Takayoshi KIDO) from Nagatonokuni and Takamori SAIGO from Satsuma was held in Kyoto by Ryoma SAKAMOTO's mediation to achieve Satsuma-Choshu Alliance. At this time, Ryoma endorsed the Alliance upon request by KATSURA. This means a single ronin provided guarantee to the Alliance forged between the giant clans, from which we can see how Ryoma gained trust. Although Satuma-Choshu Alliance is considered as the Ryoma's major achievement, there is also a theory that Ryoma was in fact instructed by Satsuma clan including SAIGO and Kiyotada KOMATSU to work on the achievement for the Alliance (Tadamasa AOYAMA), and therefore there are divided evaluations over what kind of role Ryoma played for Satsuma-Choshu Alliance. Starting with the Tadamasa AOYAMA's theory, Satsuma-Choshu Alliance has been a hotly-debated issue among scholars including Norimasa KANBASHI, Tsugunobu MIYAKE, Masato MIYACHI, Hidenao TAKAHASHI and Suguru SASAKI. For the trend of study on Satsuma-Choshu Alliance, refer to "Reality of the Alliance and The Role Ryoma Played therein" by Sakujin KIRINO ("New Historical Figures Series (4) Creation of the Restoration Ryoma SAKAMOTO" GAKKEN, 2006). Immediately thereafter in February, Ryoma was attacked by shogunate officials at Teradaya inn, but escaped death. Ryoma set out on a journey to Kagoshima together with his wife, Oryo, to heal the wounds. In June, Ryoma assisted Choshu clan's navy using Kameyama-shachu's ship, the Union, in the Second Choshu Punitive Expedition.

In 1867, Ryoma mended his relationship with Tosa clan and founded Kaientai. In April, the Iroha was sunk and Ryoma obtained damages from Kishu clan, one of the three top Tokugawa-related families. Ryoma laid down together with Shojiro GOTO Eight Rules Laid down on a Ship, Shojiro GOTO persuaded Yodo YAMAUCHI, and they realized Taisei-hokan (the Restoration of the Imperial Rule), which was a proposal from Tosa clan. But some researchers including Tadamasa AOYAMA and Rei MATSUMOTO raise questions about credibility of the fact that Ryoma actually made the Eight Rules since there exist no original text and copy thereof. It is now accepted that Ryoma made the Eight Rules, but there are no grounds according to historical data available. For the details, refer to "Language and Historical Data of Meiji Restoration" by Tadamasa AOYAMA (Seibundo shuppan, 2006) and "Was Democracy Realized after the Restoration?" by Rei MATSUURA ("New Historical Figures Series (4) Creation of the Restoration Ryoma SAKAMOTO" GAKKEN, 2006). In December, Ryoma and Shintaro NAKAOKA were assassinated at Omiya inn in Kyoto (Kyoto City, Nakagyo-ku Ward). In the lunar calendar, his birthday and the anniversary of his death are the same. The theory that the assassin belonged to Kyoto Mimawarigumi is widely accepted.

On August 20, 1871, in accordance with imperial prescript, the first son of Ryoma's elder sister Chizuru, Taro TAKAMATSU, changed his name to Nao SAKAMOTO to inherit Ryoma's family name, trying to avoid the end of the Ryoma's ancestry.

Ryoma's tomb is in the middle of approach of Kyoto Ryozen Gokoku Shrine in Kyoto City, Higashiyama-ku Ward. Ryoma is enshrined in Yasukuni-jinja Shrine.

Assassination
(Picture) Statue of Ryoma SAKAMOTO (Katsurahama beach in Kochi prefecture): even at metal contribution during the World War II, this bronze statue was exempted from the contribution.

On the assassination day, December 10, 1867, Ryoma was said to be on the second floor of the main building of the house of Shinsuke OMIYA who carried on trade of soy sauce at Takoyakushi in Kawaramachi, since Ryoma had a cold on that day. On that day Kaientai's Shintaro NAKAOKA, Tosa clan's Kenzaburo OKAMOTO, painter Kaido OMI, and others visited Ryoma. NAKAOKA stayed there and kept talking with Ryoma, and then several men identifying themselves as Totsukawa goshi slashed NAKAOKA and Ryoma. Ryoma and NAKAOKA were off guard thinking that somebody from Omiya entered, and therefore Ryoma and NAKAOKA took no sword with them. Ryoma's forehead was first severely slashed, and in spite of his brave fighting he died immediately because of this slash. NAKAOKA was also severely injured, but remained conscious for a few days and left testimony of the incident. Shintaro also died soon.

Theory of implementation by Kyoto Mimawarigumi

In Taisho era, Nobuo IMAI and Atsushi WATANABE (swordsman), who were members of Kyoto Mimawarigumi, orally testified that Tadasaburo SASAKI and others killed Ryoma and NAKAOKA. Kaishu KATSU speculated that the assassination was instructed by the high-ranking officials of the Shogunate. This theory that the assassination was carried out by Mimawarigumi is now widely accepted, and almost no historian raises questions about this theory. However, since there are some discrepancies in oral testimonies between IMAI and WATANABE, authors mainly propose various theories. In "New Historical Figures Series (4) Creation of the Restoration Ryoma SAKAMOTO" sold by GAKKEN in 2006, Akira KIKUCHI put forward a theory that since Ryoma was wanted for killing one capturing official in the Teradaya incident, Mimawarigumi came to Ryoma for arrest, but this theory also needs to be closely examined.

Theory of Shinsengumi's responsibility

From the material evidence such as the scabbard left on the scene at the time of Ryoma's assassination, and the testimony by Goryo eji including Kashitaro ITO assassinated three days later than Ryoma's assassination, Shinsengumi's Sanosuke HARADA was believed to be the Ryoma's assassin, but there is a theory that the sword wounds were by left-handed person. If this theory is to be adopted, there is one theory popping up that Hajime SAITO was the assassin considering a person who also mastered swordsmanship well enough to kill Ryoma, a master of the Hokushin Itto-ryu style. But currently there are almost no researchers who support the theory of Shinsengumi's responsibility.

(In Mibu gishiden, Jiro ASADA put forward a theory of Hajime SAITO's responsibility as a member of Goryo eji (Kodaiji temple sect).
However, the possibility that the theory of SAITO being left-handed itself is the historical fact is low.)

Satsuma clan's conspiracy theory

Ryoma is said to have softened his attitude toward the Shogunate after Taisei-hokan (the Restoration of the Imperial rule) and have started thinking of establishing a new government constituting congress by the lords of clans including Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. There is a theory that Takamori SAIGO, Toshimichi OKUBO and other activists, who aimed for the violent overthrow of the Shogunate, intentionally leaked Ryoma's whereabouts to the Shogunate side because they became cautious about such Ryoma's changed attitudes. The theory of assassination by supporters for Taisei-hokan (the Restoration of the Imperial Rule) through the restoration coup d'etat is based on Tamon SASAKI's letter and testimony by housemaids of Omiya. And also there are some argues that this theory emphasizes too much the conflict between Taisei-hokan policy and violent overthrow of the Shogunate policy, which is also another theory and points out that the both policies are not so much contradicting: "Politics in the end of Edo era and Movement of overthrow of the Shogunate" by Yoshiki IECHIKA (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 1995), "Supporters for Politics by Congress and Supporters for Overthrow of the Shogunate by Satsuma - Review on Imperial Rule Restoration Coup d'etat -" by Hidenao TAKAHASHI ("Kyoto University, Faculty of Letters, Research Report" 41, 2002), "Politics in the End of Edo Era and Satsuma Clan" by Suguru SASAKI (Yoshikawa kobunkan, 2004), and "Formation Process of Taisei-hokan Movement (1)" by Isao INOUE ("Shigaku zasshi" 81-11, 1972). The major problem is that (something) is not taken into consideration at all, and in this respect the grounds are weak. There are some enthusiastic supporters for this theory. In the NHK's period drama "Shinsengumi!" described from the Shogunate viewpoint and in the Television Tokyo's new year wide period drama "Ryoma ga Yuku (2004, TV drama)," Ryoma's assassination is depicted based on this theory. As the Ryoma's assassin was commented on based on this theory in Jikukeisatsu PART 4, many of the TV programs and novels adopt this theory, and therefore generally people tend to believe this theory. The circle of history study rarely believes this theory though. For a book arguing from the viewpoint of political history that the Satsuma clan's conspiracy theory does not hold true, refer to "New Angle toward Ryoma's Distress Incident -Review on Letters by a Kaientai Member, Tamon SASAKI- the First, the Second, and the Last" by Sakujin KIRINO ("Rekishi dokuhon" Vol. 51, No. 10, Vol. 51, No. 11, Vol. 51, No. 12, 2006).

Posthumous reputation

As previously described, Ryoma SAKAMOTO became famed after his death rather than in life.

The first of the Ryoma craze occurred when Shiran SAKAZAKI's novel "Kanketsu Senri no Koma" appeared in "Toyo shinbun" published in Kochi in 1883.

The next Ryoma craze occurred at the time of the Japanese-Russo War. There is an anecdote about Empress Dowager Shoken that Ryoma appeared in her dream and said that the Imperial Japanese Army would definitely win. Then the Empress did not know about the man appeared in her dream, but when Imperial Household Minister Mitsuaki TANAKA showed her a photograph of Ryoma, it turned out to be the man was obviously this person. It is not known whether this is true or not, but Ryoma SAKAMOTO's reputation spread nationwide since this story appeared in the national press.

Not only SAKAZAKI but also TANAKA is from Tosa. They praised Tosa-native Ryoma as a person of merit who realized the Meiji Restoration to regain Tosa-native's power against the Satsuma-Choshu clique who dominated then Meiji Government. Kaishu KATSU is the one who also praised Ryoma SAKAMOTO, and it is easy to imagine that KATSU as a former vassal of the Shogun had some resentment against the Satsuma-Choshu clique.

Other matters

A hanging scroll with several stains of blood is in the possession of Kyoto National Museum. The scroll, referred to as "Baichin zu" (picture of ume apricot and camellia) was a birthday gift presented by Kaido OMI just on that day of the assassination. The stains of the blood adhered to the scroll are believed to be Ryoma and others', who were assassinated. Judging from the situation in which the assassination took place, his skills on swordsmanship is presumed to be substantial as described in "Ryoma ga Yuku."

Ryoma was caught unprepared, receiving a sudden sward attack from an assassin then at the subsequent second attack he twisted his body and reached his hand to his sword, and received the third sword attack on the sheath of his swore, all these actions being done in defensive posture.

Anecdote

It's said that what greatly influenced Ryoma's life and character formation is Shimodaya (the KAWASHIMA family) that is the parents' home of Iyo, the second wife of Ryoma's father Hachihei. It is said that Ryoma together with his elder sister Otome rowed a boat in the Urado Bay to visit the stepmother Iyo's house located in Tanezaki, where there was a shipyard of the Tosa clan at that time, and listened to novel stories of travelers from Nagasaki and Shimonoseki. It is also said that Ryoma conceived his longing for the outer world watching a global map and various imported goods. For the details, refer to "Letters of Kaientai" by Ichiro YAMADA (Shinchosha, 1991); for information about Tosa clan's shipyard and maritime data, refer to "History of Tosa Maritime Law" by Toyomi YOSHINAGA (Sankaido, 1983).

At that time, among samurais of Tosa clan wearing long swards was prevalent. One day, when Ryoma's old friend met him again, Ryoma wore a rather short sword. Ryoma who was questioned about his short sword replied to his friend, saying "The short sword is easy to handle during actual battle." His friend assented to Ryoma and decided to wear a short sword. When they met again next time, the friend proudly showed his sword to Ryoma. Ryoma took a handgun out of his inside pocket, showing it to his friend and said "The sword is useless at all in the presence of the gun." The friend again consented to him and run for buying a handgun. When they met with each other third time, the friend showed Ryoma a handgun which he had bought, but this time Ryoma took a foreign book on international public law out of his internal pocket and said to him "From now on, we must know the world." It was said the old friend of Ryoma could not catch up with him. This story vividly depicts Ryoma's disposition, but it is only an anecdote and not historical fact. The origin of this story is not certain.

Ryoma, who got married to Oryo right after Teradaya incident, has stayed in Satsuma together with her, one of the purposes of healing the wounds among others. Referring to this trip to Satsuma, an incipiency of the first honey moon trip in Japan is mentioned.

Ryoma had two favorite handguns. One is SMITH & WESSON MODEL 2, ARMY, 33, which presented to Ryoma by Shinsaku TAKASUGI, with which Ryoma opened fire in the Teradaya incident. In the incident Ryoma lost the gun and later bought two of S&W MODEL 1, 22, which were carried by Ryoma and Oryo and with which they enjoyed hunting during the stay in Satsuma. Naturally Ryoma carried the gun with him at the time of assassination, but was killed without opening fire.

In his childhood, on his way to swimming training he was questioned by a friend, "Do you swim in this heavy rain?". He replied, "Rain doesn't matter, anyway I will get wet." and proceeded to the river.

He was six feet (about 182 cm) high. Some of the recent researches suggest 174 cm or 169 cm, which anyway mean that he was a man of high stature in Edo era.

He had black hairs on his back.

He was a bed-wetter and crybaby, in his boyhood. He could not follow study progress and was kicked out of the clan's school.

Hanpeita TAKECHI and Ryoma were so close friends each other that they called each other by their nick names, "Agi (chin) and Aza (birthmark).

Ryoma frequently visited the house of his elder sister Sachi's husband, and climbed atop the roof to look at the pacific ocean.

Allegedly, Ryoma told Saigo, "I will manage Kaientai, looking toward the world." Munemitsu MUTSU who shared the table with them, also allegedly remembered this scene and spoke about it in every opportunity. This, however is likely a creation in the later years.

Reputation of Ryoma by his contemporaries

"Ryoma is very honest, a brave swordsman, and little informed." by Toranosuke SUMIYA (after Ryoma finished dojo training in Edo)
"Ryoma is definitely some fellow, but he sometimes make a mistake since he does not read books." by Shujiro HIRAI (after Ryoma fled from the Tosa clan)
Hanpeita TAKECHI said that "He is not a type of person who does excellent jobs only within the Tosa clan" (after Ryoma fled from the Tosa clan) and also "Ryoma is brave, grand, innovative, and unique, just true to his name "dragon." (in prison)
"I met Ryoma. He is a great man; he has extraordinary ideas." by Toyomichi HIGASHIKUZE (immediately before Satsuma-Choshu Alliance)

Kaishu KATSU said that "Ryoma SAKAMOTO is a person who visited me to kill me, but a some fellow.
At that time I just laughed and accepted him, but he was discouraged; he had some dignity that nobody could perturb and an attractive aura." (After the Restoration)

Takamori SAIGO said that "There are hopefuls under the sun, and I have met lots of them. But I've never met such a large-minded person as Ryoma. No one would see how magnanimous he is."

Hisamoto HIJIKATA said that "Ryoma's words and deeds were something extremely unexpected, and he sometimes did very absurd things, but he had extraordinary ideas and achieved what he believes." Shinzo MIYOSHI said that "There is nothing radical in Ryoma. He does not argue in a loud voice and is very quiet. Although he is seemingly dynamic, but he deals with everything calmly. But he has got lots of nerves.

Family history and family member

He claims to be a descendant of the AKECHI family, a cadet branch of Mino Genji the Doki family which is a tribe of Seiwa Genji. The origin of the family name SAKAMOTO came from a place called SAKAMOTO (Sakamoto, Otsu city, Shiga prefecture at present) that was a domain of the AKECHI family before the Honnoji no hen incident. But many people considers that this is a fiction made up later; refer to "Family History of Ryoma SAKAMOTO" by Haruo DOI (Shin-Jinbutsuoraisha, 2006). The family crest is combined squares and a bellflower.

"Copy of Submitted Document about Ancestor" reads "Ancestor, Taro Goro SAKAMOTO was born in Yamashiro no kuni, although the details such as which county and village in Yamashiro no kuni are yet to be known. He escaped a war disaster and arrived at and settled in Saitani-mura village of Nagaoka-gun county. But when he settled is not known. Where his wife came from and when he died of a disease are also not known."

The SAKAMOTO family was merely registered as the third-largest peasant in the village in the official land-measurement survey conducted at Saitani-mura in 1588.

It is considered that the SAKAMOTO family had been in a peasant status that was not entitled to have an accredited family name until the third generation Tarozaemon. Until the second generation Hikosaburo and the third generation Tarozaemon, the SAKAMOTO family had been engaged in farming. At around the fourth generation Moriyuki and the fifth generation Masayoshi, the family started to use "Ohama" as their family name, which was one of the regional name in Saitani-mura.

Hachibei, who is the second son of the third generation Tarozaemon, moved to and opened a pawnshop (shop name: Saitaniya) in the town around Kochi castle, and then became a wealthy merchant running a liquor shop and dealing with kimono fabrics and other goods.

At around 1730, the family gained an official position of chief executive of Honmachi-suji and became allowed to meet the lord of the Tosa clan.

In 1770, the sixth generation Naomasu bought a stock for the title of Goshi and appointed his first son Naomi to become the first generation of goshi SAKAMOTO family, at which point the family reached the social status of Myoji-taito, i.e., to have an accredited family name and as a representation of this status carry two swords.

Naomasu ordered his second son Naokiyo to inherit the merchant family SAITANIYA. The goshi SAKAMOTO family's third generation Naotari was born as the second son of upper level goshi Kakuemon YAMAMOTO and adopted to the SAKAMOTO family. The second son of Naotari is Naokage (Ryoma SAKAMOTO).

Ryoma is the second son of Naotari SAKAMOTO, a Tosa clan's goshi.

Ryoma's mother is Sachi SAKAMOTO.

Ryoma's elder brother is Gonpei. Ryoma's elder sisters are Chizu, Sakae and Otome SAKAMOTO. Ryoma's wife is Oryo (Ryo NARASAKI). It is said that Ryoma also had a fiance, Sanako CHIBA.