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Thread: Ryoma as represented in Japanese media.

  1. #1
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    Default Ryoma as represented in Japanese media.

    Most of us in the West had never heard of Ryoma until your book came out. I was wondering how well Ryoma’s story is told in Japan? Is his name as common to the Japanese as Abe Lincoln is to Americans? Have there been movies made about his life?

    Have facts been overshadowed by myth and creative story telling?

    I really enjoyed the story about Oryo and was wondering what ever happened to her?
    John Lindsey

    Oderint, dum metuant-Let them hate, so long as they fear.

  2. #2
    R Hillsborough Guest

    Default Ryoma's popularity in Japan

    Ryoma as represented in Japanese media.
    Most of us in the West had never heard of Ryoma until your book came out. I was wondering how well Ryoma’s story is told in Japan? Is his name as common to the Japanese as Abe Lincoln is to Americans? Have there been movies made about his life?
    Have facts been overshadowed by myth and creative story telling?
    I really enjoyed the story about Oryo and was wondering what ever happened to her?
    __________________
    John Lindsey


    John

    Before I answer your questions specifically, let me give you some background information about Sakamoto Ryoma’s status in modern in Japan.

    Although Ryoma died nearly a century and a half ago, he is tremendously popular among the Japanese today. It would be safe to say that he is even worshipped in Japan. His admirers call themselves “Ryoma Fans.” Ryoma Fans span a wide spectrum of Japanese society, including the young and old, male and female, the highly educated and not-so-educated, the wealthy and the middle class. His famous admirers include late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, and Son Masayoshi, president of Softbank. There is a national gathering of Ryoma Fans held in a major city every year. There are some 80 "Ryoma Societies" in almost as many cities throughout Japan.

    Ryoma’s grave in Kyoto attracts thousands of visitors each year. Ryoma Fans leave flowers, sake and other gifts -- and return with Ryoma posters which they may purchase near the gravesite. (Ryoma shares his gravesite with Nakaoka Shintaro.)

    With the great problems facing Japan today, many people in that country have expressed their wish that a leader of Ryoma's caliber would somehow miraculously emerge. About 4 years ago executives of 200 Japanese corporations were asked in a survey by Asahi Shimbun: "Who from the past millennium of world history would be most useful in overcoming Japan's current financial crisis?" Sakamoto 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.

    Regarding name recognition as compared to Lincoln , yes, I would venture to say that Ryoma's name is as well known in Japan as Lincoln's name is in the United States.

    There have been many movies made about Ryoma's life and legacy. Many books about Ryoma, and about the bakumatsu (the last years of the Tokugawa era, 1853 - 1868) in general, are published each year in Japan.

    Yes, facts have been overshadowed by myth and creative story telling, to a certain degree. This is largely due to the immensely popular epic "Ryoma ga Yuku" (an 8-volume novel by the great late novelist Shiba Ryotaro). Though Shiba's book is the definitive biographical novel of Sakamoto Ryoma in Japanese, it is a work of fiction. Some of the characters are made up. While Shiba was extremely knowledgeable in his subject matter (I have heard that he would shop at the used bookstore district in Tokyo with a pickup truck), he took plenty of poetic license. In doing so, he greatly contributed to the post-WWII popularization of Sakamoto Ryoma. But all in all, I think that he has captured the personality and spirit of Ryoma more than any other writer. (This opinion is shared by many, I am sure.)

    Regarding Oryo, she apparently spent some time in Kochi, with Ryoma’s sister Otome, after Ryoma’s death. Both women were very strong-willed. They clashed, and Oryo left. She ended up remarrying and settling down in Yokosuka. Nevertheless, for the rest of her life she apparently considered herself Ryoma’s wife. She died in 1906 at the age of 66.

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    Mr Hillsborough,

    I certainly support your observation that Sakamoto Ryoma is popular with the Japanese media. The latest documentary of which I am aware (I do not watch much Japanese television) appeared a few months ago and featured discussions with surviving descendants and Japanese scholars. Sakamoto's entire literary output (I believe) is available on CD-ROM, with a very good search function. One of my students here is writing his doctoral thesis on Sakamoto and has access to a wide range of sources.

    However, you mention Shiba's "Ryoma go Yuku" as a biographical novel, combining fact and fiction, but you yourself have written a biographical novel and not, for example, a work which expands and updates Jansen's book, or balances the work of, e.g., Conrad Totman. I am curious as to why you chose to do this.

    Best regards,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

  4. #4
    R Hillsborough Guest

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    Professor Goldsbury

    I appreciate your thoughtful question. Please allow me to answer with a brief statement I wrote for another forum a couple of years back. But before I do, I must say that my biographical novel of Sakamoto Ryoma is basically nonfiction. (Also, to set the record straight, Ryoma did not have any true descendents, as far as I know. His nephew, Takamatsu Taro, who was a member of the Kaientai, apparently continued his line, after Ryoma’s death. I suppose his “descendents” are the descendents of Takamatsu Taro.)

    My answer to your question follows:

    Professor Jansen's book is the first English-language biography of Sakamoto Ryoma, the most celebrated historical figure in Japan today. It is also an in-depth study of the political and socioeconomic situation during the turbulent and fascinating years of the Meiji Restoration, the dawn of modern Japan. When I first read this book fifteen years ago, it struck me as an invaluable college-level textbook for students of Japanese history. It also made me aware of the need in the English language for a more probing analysis of Sakamoto Ryoma, the man. It was then that I began the 7-year process of researching and writing RYOMA - Life of a Renaissance Samurai, which I believe is a true-to-life portrait of Ryoma - blood and guts, heart and soul.

    Romulus Hillsborough

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    Here are some scans of a theater flyer for a movie about Ryoma.

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    Page 2

  7. #7
    stevemcgee99 Guest

    Default OOOOOoooohh!

    I've heard of this movie. If Nakamura is portraying Ryoma, I think I'll faint! The cast looks spectacular. I only wish Ichikawa Raizo was in it.

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