Sakamoto Ryoma, the “Father of Modern Japan,” is featured on the latest coin in Japan’s Prefecture series, commemorating the Prefecture of Kochi. This marks the first time that an historic personality has been depicted on a Japanese coin! The Kochi airport is named after Ryoma, as he is fondly called by his countrymen, and the handsome Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum was opened in 1991. Ryoma is even a popular character in Japanimation (anime).
He was born in Kochi in 1835 and assassinated in Kyoto at the age of 33, living only long enough to see one month of Japan's drastic change ("The Meiji Restoration"), marking the end of 700 years of feudalism. Sadly, Ryoma never saw the modern Japan he had struggled to build.
The background of the coins pictures Katsurahama Beach, one of the most famous scenic spots in Kochi. These newly issued coins are already sold out in Japan, but are offered as supplies last by the official United States distributor, Panda America.
The mintage is limited to 100,000, with only 5,000 reserved for collectors outside of the Japanese market.
Ryoma left home at 28, and traveled throughout Japan to reform the national political and economic system. He was a renowned swordsman, who had served as head of an elite fencing academy in Edo (now Tokyo), and was also a leader of the young samurai. In 1866, Ryoma’s uncanny power of persuasion succeeded in forming an alliance between the Satsuma and Choshu clans, that had been traditional enemies, and the following year he formulated an "Eight-Point Program" for the modernization of Japan. In a bloodless revolution, Ryoma succeeded in forcing the Shogun to abdicate and turn over power to the emperor.
Along the way, Ryoma Sakamoto also managed to establish Kaientai, the first modern corporation in Japan. It functioned as Ryoma’s modernized navy and was at times more powerful than the local government! No wonder that, a few years ago, when executives of 200 Japanese corporations were asked “Who from the past millennium of world history would be most useful in overcoming Japan’s current financial crisis?” Ryoma received more mention than any other historical figure.