Kochi’s Famous Forebears

Sakamoto Ryoma

Kochi has a unique culture. Separated from the rest of Japan by the massive Shikoku Mountains to the north, our culture has always faced south to the expansive Pacific Ocean. Our relative isolation and warm climate has had the fortuitous effect of nurturing a free-thinking, warm-hearted and lively populus. As a result, Kochi is home to many of Japan’s great thinkers and political reformers.

Sakamoto Ryoma has to be the most famous of all. Born in the closing decades of Japan’s military rule, Sakamoto was instrumental in catalysing the great political reforms of the Meiji Restoration of 1868. He is honoured with many facilities being named after him – including the airport and the stadium.

The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement began in Kochi under the leadership of Itagaki Taisuke – arguably the father of Japanese democracy. His efforts, and those of Sakamoto Ryoma and many others, led to the coining of the phrase ‘Freedom Comes from the Mountains of Tosa’ (Tosa is the old name for Kochi).

Iwasaki Yataro

Other illuminaries include:

  • Iwasaki Yataro, founder of the Mitsubishi Corportation
  • Makino Tomitaro, Japan’s first true botanist
  • Terada Torahiko, a leading physicist
  • Yoshida Shigeru, postwar Prime Minister
  • John Manjiro, the first Japanese person to ever visit America after being rescued by an American ship and accompanying the crew back to New England