Missing 80 years, letter delivered by samurai Sakamoto recovered

Kyodo News

A letter delivered by Sakamoto Ryoma, a samurai hero who helped establish the modern Japanese government in the late 19th century, was rediscovered in Kochi recently, more than 80 years after it went missing in 1927.

The letter, shown to the media Monday in Kochi, was written by Kusaka Genzui of the Choshu government (in today’s Yamaguchi Prefecture) to another samurai activist, Takechi Hanpeita, of the Tosa government (present-day Kochi Prefecture) to promote the movement to build an emperor-centered government.

The letter was found among materials held by the Tosa Yamauchi Family Treasury and Archives in Kochi. The Yamauchi family ruled Tosa before the Meiji Restoration, which set up the Imperial government and modernized Japan.

The letter called on lower-ranking samurai to join the revolution to topple the shogunate government.

“We cannot rely on daimyo nor court nobles, either. The only choice is to organize high-spirited common people and stand up,” Kusaka wrote.

“For the great cause, we would not feel pain even if the Choshu or Tosa governments are ruined.”

A photo of the letter appears in a book published in 1927, but its whereabouts were unknown since then.

Sakamoto was a key player who helped form an alliance of the Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture) and Choshu governments, which eventually toppled the shogunate government and established the Meiji government.

He has been a popular historical figure, and has grown even more popular this year with NHK airing a one-year drama based on a novel about his life written by Ryotaro Shiba, “Ryoma ga iku” (“Ryoma is Going”).