“The Ryoma Phenomenon” (15): Ryoma and Nietzsche (2)


As I wrote in No. 1 of this series, Ryōma began living dangerously when he rejected Confucian-samurai values and the discriminatory class structure in Tosa, fled Tosa, and became an outlaw.

Ryōma’s rejection of certain Confucian-samurai values (by no means did he reject them all) resembles Nietzsche’s rejection of Christian values, just as the philosopher’s famous announcement of the death of God is comparable to Ryōma’s heralding the death of Tokugawa feudalism. According to Nietzsche, once a person rejects society’s old values, he is left with nothing but himself to rely on. This fundamental Nietzschean idea is reflected in an often-cited poem by Ryōma, which, I think, sums up the latter’s philosophy very nicely: “It matters not what people say of me, I am the only one who knows what I must do.” (世の人はわれを なにともゆはゞいへわがなすことはわれのみぞしる)