This is the authentic story of Ryoma's key role in Japan’s bloody revolution, by which the country was transformed from a land ruled by feudal lords and samurai, under the hegemony of the shogun, into a modern industrialized nation under the unifying rule of the Emperor.
Mid-19th-century Japan was a caldron of political upheaval and intrigue and bloody inner-fighting among samurai. This most enthralling age in the annals of Japan brought forth some of the most fascinating men in that nation’s history. Those men modernized Japan, and laid the foundation for the militarism of WWII and the economic powerhouse of today. This close look into the hearts and minds of those two-sworded men provides a deep insight into the political, cultural, and psychological roots of modern Japan.
Ryoma was the founder of Japan's first modern corporation. He was a swaggering swordsman who packed a Smith and Wesson, and one of the most colorful figures in Japanese history. Although basically unknown in the West, this samurai of the mid-19th-century has been idolized, if not deified, among Japan's young and old since the end of WWII.
Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's leading daily newspapers, recently conducted a survey among executives at 200 Japanese corporations. In answer to the question of who from world history over the past millennium would be most useful in overcoming the economic crisis of today's Japan, Sakamoto Ryoma received the most votes, far ahead of such giants as Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci and the founders of NEC and Honda.
Most major Japanese cities have "Ryoma Societies." Ryoma is depicted in numerous best-selling novels and popular movies. His image appears regularly in media throughout Japan. "Ryoma fans" flock to his grave site in Kyoto, leaving flowers and purchasing Ryoma posters. And all this for a man who has been dead for nearly a century and a half.
Romulus Hillsborough is a native Californian who lived in Japan for over sixteen years, eight of which he spent writing this extensively researched book. It has been his objective to strictly adhere to historical and cultural fact, while maintaining high literary standards. He has felt that in this way he would be able to both edify and delight the minds of his readers. "To edify while delighting the mind is no easy task," the author contends. "It is one which requires significant motivation. My personal motivation came with the realization of the cultural loss on a grand scale that an historical figure of Ryoma's stature has failed to gain the full attention of the Western world for nearly a century and a half." FIRST LITERARY BIOGRAPHY OF JAPAN'S MOST REMARKABLE SAMURAI
The founder of Japan's first modern corporation was a swaggering swordsman who packed a Smith and Wesson, an outlaw who led a band of stalwart samurai to overthrow the shogun, and one of the most colorful figures in Japanese history. His name was Ryoma, which is the title of his first biography in story form to appear in the English language.
The historical importance of Ryoma upon modern Japan, and indeed the rest of Asia, cannot be overlooked. "Without this genius Japan would have lost its independence over a century ago, and been colonized by a European nation," says Tsutomu Ohshima, Chief Instructor of Shotokan Karate of America, the oldest karate organization in the U.S.
"It is a cultural loss that an historical figure of such magnificent stature could have failed to gain the full attention of the Western world for nearly a century and a half," says Romulus Hillsborough, author of Ryoma-Life of a Renaissance Samurai. "It is a tragedy that the general public's sources of information about the era of the samurai have, for the most part, been travesties of Japanese history and culture in the forms of popular fiction and movies." Through his new book, Hillsborough has rectified the situation.
"Of the many heroes who lived and died during the turbulent years leading up to and following the Meiji Restoration, Ryoma was the most deserving of the appellation 'a man for all nations,'" says Saichiro Miyaji, Japan's most distinguished biographer of Sakamoto Ryoma. "I am very pleased to see the ideas and magnificent human stature of Ryoma presented in English to the entire world on the eve of the 21st century."
Hillsborough spent 16 years in Japan, studying the language, history and culture. His extensive research includes forty books about his subject's life, historical period and prominent contemporaries, all of Ryoma's extant letters, of which there are over 120 in publication, numerous other letters written to him by his peers, and articles and other pieces from Japanese history journals. The author traveled to those areas in Japan where Ryoma was most active, including the historical cities of Kyoto, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Hagi, Ryoma's native Kochi, and the picturesque fishing village of Tomo-no-Ura on the Inland Sea.
"In the present age of economical, political and social turmoil, Japan desperately needs a farsighted leader of Ryoma's caliber," says Tae Moriyama, principal of the prestigious Modern Japanese Language School in Tokyo, and author of several books on Japanese language, and local Japanese history and culture. "Hillsborough has woven the elaborate story of Ryoma with pinpoint accuracy and a profound insight into the most exciting period in Japanese history. The author's infatuation with the life of this leader of men is alive on each page of this truly captivating book."