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Sakamoto Ryoma stands as a pivotal figure in the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate, revered as one of the Edo period's greatest heroes. Born on January 3, 1836, in Kochi, Toda domain in Shikoku, Ryoma hailed from a lineage of affluent sake brewers. His great grandfather's investment secured the family the status of merchant samurai, known as Goshi, within the samurai hierarchy.

Demonstrating exceptional swordsmanship from a young age, Ryoma earned the privilege to travel to Edo to hone his skills further. He underwent training at the prestigious Hokushin Itto-Ryu school, achieving the esteemed rank of Shihan (master instructor) and later imparting his knowledge of sword techniques at the same institution. Upon his return to Kochi in 1858, Ryoma found Japan grappling with the repercussions of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrival in 1854, which shattered the nation's self-imposed isolation and sparked anti-foreign and anti-Tokugawa sentiments.

While rebel factions in Tosa, Ryoma's home domain, initially advocated for localized reforms, Ryoma championed nationwide change. Despite the risk of death (as demonstrated by his sister's suicide), Ryoma defied orders and targeted Katsu Kaishu, a prominent Tokugawa official, for assassination. However, upon confronting Kaishu, Ryoma was swayed by the latter's vision of modernizing Japan's military strength and opted to become his assistant instead of an assassin. Together, they established a formidable naval force.

Ryoma's most significant contribution came from uniting former adversaries—the Satsuma and Choshu clans—forming a coalition that would ultimately dismantle the Tokugawa Shogunate after 260 years of rule.

Unfortunately, on December 10, 1867, Ryoma and his companion Nakaoka Shintaro fell victim to an ambush at the Omiya Inn in Kyoto. Assassins, purportedly from the Shinsengumi, attacked, fatally injuring both Ryoma and Nakaoka. Ryoma succumbed to his wounds that night, while Nakaoka passed away two days later. Despite accusations and executions within the Shinsengumi, the identities of Ryoma's assailants remain undisclosed.

Ryoma's legacy endures as a symbol of selfless devotion to Japan's welfare. His principles and untimely demise have immortalized him as a national hero, revered to this day.

 


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