“Why Ryoma Now?” packed a full house at the Hawaii Convention Center’s ‘Emalani Theatre on Tuesday, October 11. Exactly seven months after the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people’s focus was on valuing human life which is exactly what the great Japanese historical figure and samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma strived for. While Ryoma was a great historical figure of the 19th Century leading to the opening of Japan to the world, the organizers of this symposium showed exactly how he is as relevant today with a masterful series of prose, song, and art performances by Ryoma’s direct descendants and supporters.
Upon entering the theatre, guests were greeted by a magnificent hat display created by the artist Masako Yamamoto. The program began with opening remarks on behalf of JASH, followed by remarks from Yoshihiko Kamo, Consul General of Japan at Honolulu, and Kenshiro Mori, Director of the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in Kochi. A presentation on the history of Ryoma and also a video of the recent Japan Earthquake followed. A panel discussion featuring Ms. Yukie Maeda, curator of the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum; Noboru Sakamoto, ninth generation descendant of the Sakamoto family; Minako Kouyama, a fifth generation descendant of the Katsu family; Junji Kitadai, a John Mung researcher; and high school essay contest entrants Sumire Oishi and Nenju Gibo followed. They highlighted how Ryoma was tired of the samurai class system and dreamed of fairness and equality for all. His descendants chose Hawaii and New York to hold this symposium to carry out Ryoma’s dreams of wanting to see the U.S. and a democratic society. Today’s Ryoma are the young hopefuls with great visions for the future, just like the high school panelists.
Following intermission, the classic guitar duo Ichimujin livened up the atmosphere while Japanese Calligraphers Koushi Fujita and Tosao Takeuchi demonstrated their talents in the background. Japanese synthesizer player Naoki Nishimura also performed songs while the spectacular calligraphy display continued. Ichimujin and Mr. Nishimura both took the stage to bid guests farewell with the final song, “Ue o muite arukou” or “Sukiyaki” as it is commonly known. When the performance was over, guests were treated to being able to take home a calligraphy piece of their choosing.
A special thanks to the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in Kochi, Japan for bringing this Symposium to Hawaii. We would also like to thank the Nippon Foundation, Honolulu Foundation, and the Hawaii Convention Center staff for their support in organizing this event.