Sakamoto Ryoma: The Indispensable "Nobody"

Written by Romulus Hillsborough

In June 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry ofrepparttar United States Navy led a squadron of four heavily armed warships into Sagami Bay, torepparttar 125548 Port of Uraga, just south ofrepparttar 125549 shogun's capital at Edo. Whatrepparttar 125550 Americans found was a technologically backward, though intricately complicated, island nation, underrepparttar 125551 rule ofrepparttar 125552 House of Tokugawa, that had been isolated fromrepparttar 125553 rest ofrepparttar 125554 world for two and a half centuries.

Whether or notrepparttar 125555 Americans realizedrepparttar 125556 far-reaching effects of their gunboat diplomacy, they now set into motion a coup de theatre which fifteen years hence would transformrepparttar 125557 conglomerate of some 260 feudal domains into a single, unified country. Whenrepparttar 125558 fifteenth and last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, abdicated his rule and restoredrepparttar 125559 emperor to his ancient seat of power in November 1867, Japan was well on its way to becoming an industrialized nation, rapidly modernizing and Westernizing in a unique Japanese sense.

Quite a transformation in just fifteen years, and much ofrepparttar 125560 credit goes to a lower ranking samurai fromrepparttar 125561 Tosa domain named Sakamoto Ryoma. When Ryoma fled his native Tosa in spring 1862, he was a "nobody." Although he was a renowned swordsman who had served as head of an elite fencing academy in Edo, and was also a leader ofrepparttar 125562 young samurai in Tosa who advocatedrepparttar 125563 radical slogans Expellingrepparttar 125564 Barbarians, Imperial Reverence and Topplingrepparttar 125565 Shogunate, inrepparttar 125566 eyes ofrepparttar 125567 power that were he was a "nobody." He had never held an official post, and he never would. When inrepparttar 125568 following Octoberrepparttar 125569 "nobody" met Katsu Kaishu,repparttar 125570 enlightened commissioner ofrepparttar 125571 shogun's navy, it might have been with intent to assassinate him. But, of course, Ryoma did not kill Kaishu. Instead, this champion of samurai who would overthrowrepparttar 125572 shogunate and expelrepparttar 125573 barbarians becamerepparttar 125574 devoted follower ofrepparttar 125575 elite shogunal official. Kaishu opened Ryoma's eyes torepparttar 125576 futility of trying to defend against a foreign onslaught without first developing a powerful navy; and to this end Japan desperately needed Western technology and expertise.

Ryoma now worked with Kaishu, whom he called "the greatest man in Japan," to establish a naval academy in Kobe, where he and his comrades studiedrepparttar 125577 naval arts and sciences under their revered mentor. But certain of his hotheaded comrades called Ryoma a turncoat for siding withrepparttar 125578 enemy, which, of course, was not true. As if to belierepparttar 125579 false accusation, inrepparttar 125580 following June Ryoma vowed, in a letter to his sister, to "clean up Japan once and for all." What he was talking about was overthrowingrepparttar 125581 military government, which Kaishu loyally served. Earlier inrepparttar 125582 same month, ships ofrepparttar 125583 United States and France had shelledrepparttar 125584 radical Choshu domain in retaliation for Choshu's having recently fired upon foreign ships passing through Shimonoseki Strait. News ofrepparttar 125585 attack deeply troubled Ryoma, who was concerned about possible designs amongrepparttar 125586 Western powers, particularly France and England, to colonize Japan asrepparttar 125587 latter had China. When Ryoma learned thatrepparttar 125588 foreign ships that had bombarded Choshu were subsequently repaired at a Tokugawa shipyard in Edo, he was fighting mad. "It is really too bad that Choshu started a war last month by shelling foreign ships," he wrote his sister. "This does not benefit Japan at all. But what really disgusts me is thatrepparttar 125589 ships they shot up in Choshu are being repaired at Edo, and when they're fixed will head right back to Choshu to fight again. This is all because corrupt officials in Edo are in league withrepparttar 125590 barbarians." But, now, throughrepparttar 125591 good offices of Katsu Kaishu, Ryoma too was in league with some very powerful men. "Although those corrupt shogunal officials have a great deal of power now, I'm going to getrepparttar 125592 help of two or three daimyo and enlist likeminded men so we can start thinking more aboutrepparttar 125593 good of Japan, and not onlyrepparttar 125594 Imperial Court. Then, I'll get together with my friends in Edo (you know, Tokugawa retainers, daimyo and so on) to go after those wicked officials and cut them down."

Ryoma was not opposed to boasting, and he had a big ego, declaring to his sister: "It's a shame that there aren't more men like me aroundrepparttar 125595 country." For all his boasting, however, Ryoma was also a realist. "I don't expect that I'll be around too long. But I'm not about to die like any average person either. I'm only prepared to die when big changes finally come, when even if I continue to live I will no longer be of any use torepparttar 125596 country. But since I'm fairly shifty, I'm not likely to die so easily. But seriously, although I was born a mere potato digger in Tosa, a nobody, I'm destined to bring about great changes inrepparttar 125597 nation. But I'm definitely not going to get puffed up about it. Quiterepparttar 125598 contrary! I'm going to keep my nose torepparttar 125599 ground, like a clam inrepparttar 125600 mud. So don't worry about me!"

It seems that Ryoma was also an incredible visionary who foresaw his own destination. Four years laterrepparttar 125601 "nobody" from Tosa forcedrepparttar 125602 peaceful abdication of Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, andrepparttar 125603 restoration ofrepparttar 125604 emperor to power -repparttar 125605 event that historians callrepparttar 125606 Meiji Restoration.

But how could Ryoma - who had plunged fromrepparttar 125607 status of "nobody," to that of outlaw, and one ofrepparttar 125608 most wanted men on a long list of Tokugawa enemies - be of sufficient consequence to forcerepparttar 125609 abdication ofrepparttar 125610 generalissimo ofrepparttar 125611 267-year-old samurai government? And what were his reasons for doing so, even atrepparttar 125612 risk of his own life? To answerrepparttar 125613 second question first, and to put it quite simply, Ryoma was a lover of freedom -repparttar 125614 freedom to act,repparttar 125615 freedom to think, andrepparttar 125616 freedom to be. These wererepparttar 125617 ideals that drove Ryoma on his dangerous quest for freedom - which, of course, was nothing less thanrepparttar 125618 salvation of Japan. Butrepparttar 125619 greatest obstacle to this freedom, and torepparttar 125620 salvation of Japan from foreign subjugation, wasrepparttar 125621 antiquated Tokugawa system, with its hundreds of feudal domains and suppressive class structure, which men like Katsu Kaishu and Sakamoto Ryoma meant to replace with a representative form of government styled afterrepparttar 125622 great Western powers, and based on a free-class society and open commerce withrepparttar 125623 rest ofrepparttar 125624 world.

Pet Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Written by Pet Friendly Canada

'Tisrepparttar season for friends and family, eggnog and other treats, and good times! During this busy time it can be a challenge to juggle everything that needs to be done -- including caring for your four-legged friends. Here are a few tips to help keep your furry friends safe forrepparttar 125547 holidays:

__No Chocolate, Please

Although Fido and Fluffy may be attracted torepparttar 125548 smell and taste of chocolate, in sufficient quantities, chocolate can make her very sick. The result? Vomiting, diarrhea, and a lovely holiday spent atrepparttar 125549 emergency vet clinic.

Be sure to store chocolate well away from pets. Open counters or ledges are not good places -- some dogs may 'counter-surf', and cats easily reach counters (what's worse, they can knock chocolate offrepparttar 125550 countertop and straight intorepparttar 125551 path of enthusiastic dogs!).

__Tinsel's Pretty, But...

Although it's a popular decoration for trees, it can pose a danger if your pet swallows it. It's possible for it to cause an intestinal blockage -- and again, no one (least of all your pet!) wants to spendrepparttar 125552 holidays undergoing surgery!

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