KOCHI — A letter that was written by the legendary samurai Ryoma Sakamoto just five days before he was assassinated in Kyoto in 1867 has been found, the Kochi Prefectural Government said on Jan. 13.
In the letter — addressed to a senior official of the then Fukui clan — Sakamoto uses such terms as “financial administration of the new nation,” as part of an appeal to have Fukui clan member Mitsuoka Hachiro (later called Yuri Kimimasa) appointed as the person in charge of finances in the new nation after the restoration of Imperial rule. Sakamoto also stresses in the document that, “If Mitsuoka arrives in Kyoto one day late, then the financial administration of the new nation will also be established one day late.”
Analysts of the letter mention that Sakamoto’s use of straightforward expressions to let the addressee know that the new nation needs Mitsuoka is quintessentially Sakamoto-esque, and that it reflects his initiative, persuasiveness, and vigor. They regard the letter as a vital historical document, partly because it is the first time that a document containing Sakamoto’s use of the term “new nation” has been found.
The letter is written on a 16-centimeter by 92-centimeter piece of paper, and is dated Nov. 10 in the old Japanese calendar. It was addressed to Nakane Yukie of the Fukui clan — who was staying at a Fukui clan residence in Kyoto at the time — and it is signed by Sakamoto.
In the letter, Sakamoto touches on the Fukui clan’s disciplinary suspension order given to Mitsuoka to remain within the clan’s borders because of his tough stance against the Tokugawa shogunate, and urges Mitsuoka’s arrival in Kyoto as soon as possible.
During a visit to the Fukui clan on Oct. 30, Sakamoto had an interview with Mitsuoka. There is a separate draft letter, written after Sakamoto met with Mitsuoka, in which Sakamoto wrote, “There is no person more suitable” to be the financial administrator for the new nation.
Archaeologist Teiichi Miyakawa at Kyoto National Museum, who analyzed Sakamoto’s letter, says while further consideration regarding Sakamoto’s intended meaning of the phrase “new nation” needs to be taken, “the intended meaning was probably the same as that used today.”
Kochi Gov. Masanao Ozaki commented, “This is a crucial historical document that enables us to understand Sakamoto’s drive toward creating a new era.”
Significantly, one month after Sakamoto was assassinated, Mitsuoka did go on to Kyoto and did indeed become the person in charge of finances during the initial phase of the new government.
The letter will be on display in an exhibition at the Kochi Castle Museum of History in the city of Kochi from March 4, 2017.