Sakamoto Ryoma: founder of Japan’s first trading company, swaggering swordsman who packed a Smith & Wesson, outlaw, leader in the “samurai revolution” at the dawn of modern Japan – and now, in the 21st century, he’s a superstar.
With the geopolitical and economic challenges facing Japan today, many people express their wish that a leader of Ryoma’s caliber would emerge. “Who from the past millennium of world history would be most useful in overcoming Japan’s current financial crisis?” a national newspaper asked executives of some 200 Japanese corporations. Ryoma received more mention than any other historical figure, topping such giants as Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Saigo Takamori, Oda Nobunaga and the founders of NEC and Honda.
As I mentioned in a recent post, to the best of my knowledge the first book about Ryoma was Sakazaki Shiran’s novel, published in 1883. Ryoma’s fame and legacy were further boosted by Chikami Kiyomi’s 1914 biography, a famous illustration from which is shown here.
What’s so special about Ryoma? Why “The Ryoma Phenomenon” in the 21st century? To find out, read about his life and legacy in the only novel about him in English: Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai.