Oryō, a Woman Who Changed Japanese History

In the early days of Keiō 2, the Japanese year that corresponds to 1866, Sakamoto Ryōma was attacked and nearly killed by a Bakufu police unit at the Teradaya inn in Fushimi (below), just south of Kyōto. A young woman named Oryō, soon to be Ryoma’s wife, was working at the Teradaya. Taking a bath downstairs when the intruders stormed the place, she ran up the stairs to warn her lover that Bakufu men had come to kill him. It was probably because of her quick thinking and courage that Ryoma escaped with his life. Less than two years later the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, would announce his intention to step down and restore political power to the Imperial Court, based on Ryōma’s famous plan to avert civil war. For details about Ryōma’s narrow escape from the Teradaya and Oryō’s heroic role therein, see my Samurai Revolution, Chapter 19, and  Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai, “Attack At the Teradaya.”

(To avoid any misunderstanding, I should add that the original building was destroyed in a fire. The building, as seen in these photos, stands today as a monument of past history. If not an exact replica, it captures the feeling and image of the Teradaya during the Bakumatsu.)