Ryoma`s shipping company – Kameyama Shachu, Nagasaki.

I visited the Kameyama Shachu museum on a short trip to Nagasaki. The museum is maintained by the Nagasaki City Council since 2009 through the courtesy of the building owner. The museum has been restored back to original condition as Ryoma knew it. It is an experience all Ryoma fans should do once in their life.

If you are still reading this far means you are somewhat familiar with Ryoma. So, just a little background info on Sakamoto Ryoma. He was born in 1835 in Tosa, Shikoku near Kochi castle. Ryoma got a pass to study swordsmanship in Edo and later began dabbling in politics with the Tosa Kintou group which was lead by Hanpeita Takechi. Ryoma left the Tosa group in 1862 and joined Katsu Kaishu, one of the Shogunate vassals, learning navigation and seafaring in Kobe. In 1865 he established his own company, the Kameyama Shachu in Nagasaki, later the name changed to Kaientai. Through this company Ryoma and his trusted friends and colleagues put a mark on the history of the Meiji Restoration. Unfortunately, in November 1867 he was assassinated while staying in the Omiya Inn, in Kyoto just before the restoration of the emperor the following year and the establishment of the Meiji Government.

The Kameyama Shachu was Japan`s first trading company.  Established with the help of the Satsuma clan of Kagoshima.  Among it`s members were many friends of Ryoma`s from the Naval Training School he attended in Kobe.  The company called on the help of Thomas Glover, a Scottish man with his trading business in Nagasaki, to purchase trade ships and weapons.  Along with general trade the company was also fundamental in shipping weapons and warships to the anti-Bakufu movement.  This movement was called the Satcho Alliance, between Satsuma and Choshu han facilitated by Sakamoto himself.  The name Kameyama comes from the name of the hill that the office is located on and Shachu comes from the kanji meaning friend or association.

The museum is quite a hike to get to, but well worth it.  The walkway leads you up through some old cemeteries, temples and shrines and the view is fantastic.  The museum is divided up into three sections.  Ryoma zone, Kameyama Shachu and Kaientai.  The Ryoma zone has a number of things that belonged to him.  The second introducing the company and the third explores how the company with the support of the Tosa clan, Ryoma`s place of birth, eventually became involved in the business and making money through trade.

Great piece of Japanese history that is being preserved for us to visit.

Written by Stu from information gathered from the displays at the museum.

Photos by Stuart.  

If you`re interested in Ryoma Sakamoto and the Meiji Restoration please have a look at these resources.

Jansen, Marius B. 1994. Sakamoto Ryōma and the Meiji restoration. New York: Columbia University Press.

Craig, Albert. 1959. “The Restoration Movement in Chōshū”. The Journal of Asian Studies. 18 (2): 187-197.

Steele, M. William. 1981. “Against the Restoration. Katsu Kaishu’s Attempt to Reinstate the Tokugawa Family”. Monumenta Nipponica. 36 (3): 299-316.

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