Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Death of Ryoma

Yesterday, November 15th, was the anniversary of the death of Sakamoto Ryoma. Here in Kyoto, there was a memorial service for Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro, who died with him, outside the convenience store (I believe.... it used to be a travel agent, but I haven't been past in a while) that now stands at the site of his death on Kawaramachi Street at the heart of the down-town shopping district.

Of course, the mystery of who actually killed him remains. Recent opinion seems to point to Katsura Hayanosuke (or Sonosuke) - it was his sword that was displayed as the murder weapon in the Ryoma-den exhibition here earlier in the year, and also the subject of this clipping I took way back in '94. He was a member of the Mimawarigumi, a para-military pro-Bakufu organization, as was Imai Nobuo, who actually claimed to have killed Ryoma. The catalogue has a chapter on the murder, explaining the course of events and, presumably, the arguments for Katsura but unfortunately time presses, and I don't have time to translate it now. I also remember there was a reconstruction of the event at the exhibition - fairly interesting, actually, but I didn't take note of the details, figuring it would all be in the catalogue.

With the NHK Taiga drama due to end in two weeks, it will be interesting to see their interpretation of the killing - no doubt it will reflect the same opinion as the exhibition - I'm looking forward to it, anyway.


  1. I too have heard the theory that it was a Mimawarigumi member but I think we will never know for sure.

  2. In the last episode of Ryoma-den it was a bunch of Mimmawarigumi members who did it - they were named, but in Taiga drama style, the names flashed up in kanji on the screen and I didn't catch them.

    The portrayal of the killers was quite well done - men numb with shock, anger and misery at the impending breakdown of the social system and total loss of their class identity. It was actually quite sympathetic.

  3. The Taiga dramas are very entertaining and I have watched many of them including Shinsengumi, Tenchijin, and Ryomaden but I place little in their historical accuracy.

  4. I saw the 48 episode TV series, Ryomaden and was
    so impressed by the story, that I wrote about it.

    Themes In The Fabulous Japanese TV Series, Ryomaden

    The Ryomaden series really made me think.
    My post is a few of my thoughts.

    1. Thanks Rodger - I will have a look at that when I get time – hopefully in the next few days. I'm currently watching Yae no Sakura, and have been quite impressed by seeing the well-known events from quite a different angle.