Ryoma : Life of a Renaissance Samurai by Hillsborough, Romulus

Wine, Women and the Specter of War

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Wine, Women and the Specter of War
The thought of his own mortality did little to bother the Dragon, as the threat of war loomed above the Japanese nation. "Even if I die a painful death in war," he bantered in a letter to a friend, "as long as Saigo and Okubo burn incense and offer flowers at my grave, it is a given fact that I will enter nirvana."
Ryoma and Nakaoka spent the following weeks fostering support for peaceful restoration among the men at the Kyoto headquarters of Tosa, Satsuma and other clans. In mid-July Ryoma received word that a man by the name of Sasaki Sanshiro, Tosa's commissioner of justice, wanted to meet him. Ryoma's original reaction was one of resentment. "Commissioner of justice," he said sneeringly to Nakaoka. "I didn't know justice existed in Tosa." Ryoma's resentment for the upper-samurai of Tosa exceeded that of Nakaoka, who, unlike Ryoma, had never given up hope that he might someday return to his home. Nakaoka had only fled Tosa after Yodo's crackdown on the Tosa Loyalists. As a village headman's son, his sense of obligation to his native land was naturally stronger than Ryoma's; and over the years he had even sent numerous letters to the upper-samurai in Kochi, urging them to support Satsuma and Choshu. Ryoma, on the other hand, had no desire to return to Tosa. His dreams encompassed more distant realms. "Once this drama has ended," he had recently told Yonosuke, "we'll bring our Kaientai

all over the world."

"I've heard that Sasaki is crafty," Nakaoka said, "but he's apparently sincere in his dedication to Imperial Loyalism. I think we ought to give him a


"A chance for what?" Ryoma sneered. "What could Lord Yodo's commissioner of justice possibly want to talk to me about? Other than Goto and Inui, I don't know of one of Yodo's elite who's worth his weight in spit."

"Apparently Sasaki wants to talk to you about your plan for peaceful restoration. He's been sent here by Lord Yodo himself to gain support for the plan among Tosa samurai in Kyoto." While the Lord of Tosa had agreed with the plan, many of his retainers did not. Tosa's upper-samurai were now divided into two camps: one radical, the other staunchly conservative, but both of them opposed the idea of peaceful restoration. The radicals, led by Inui Taisuke, shared the view of Satsuma, Choshu and the Iwakura faction at court: that the Tokugawa must be crushed militarily to ensure that it would never rise again. Tosa's conservatives—remnants of the old guard originally ousted by Yoshida Toyo but ironically restored to nominal power by Hanpeita's Loyalists—were suspicious of the plan to restore the power to the Emperor, lest such a drastic move disturb the status quo by which they had benefited for generations. They viewed it as a ploy by Satsuma and Choshu to force Tosa into opposing the Bakufu, to the exclusive benefit of those two


As Ryoma was willing to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime to promote his Great Plan at Sea, he agreed to meet Tosa's commissioner of justice.

The meeting took place in a private room at a small restaurant in the foothills in the eastern part of the city. As commissioner of justice, Sasaki was in charge of the administration of Tosa law, ranking him just below Yodo's ministers. He was among the new breed of upper-samurai who, like Goto and Fukuoka, opposed Edo, but unlike the more radical Inui supported Ryoma's plan for peaceful restoration. Five years older than Ryoma, Sasaki was tall and lean, with a narrow face and penetrating eyes. In his youth he had studied under one of Kochi's leading scholars of Japanese classical poetry, and while gifted with the pen, his talents clearly lay in the realm of politics. This Yodo realized, and sent Sasaki to Kyoto with the vital task of convincing both radicals and conservatives here to support Ryoma's plan for peaceful restoration, which the Tosa daimyo still believed was the brainchild of Goto.

"Welcome," Sasaki said warmly as Ryoma and Nakaoka entered the room. He gestured for the two men to join him at his table, set with several flasks and cups. "I've heard so much about the two of you that I feel as if we were already friends."

"Get to the point, Sasaki," Ryoma said with a scowl. "I hear you want to discuss my plan to restore the power to the Emperor."

"Precisely," Sasaki replied, the false smile having disappeared. "Goto has told me in confidence that you're the architect of the plan, and I'd like to tell you that I endorse it from the bottom of my heart."

Ryoma and Nakaoka sat down, and the mood in the room immediately brightened. "In which case," Ryoma said, "I'm glad we came to see you. But there is something I must tell you. Tosa has changed its policy so many times in the past that neither Satsuma nor Choshu trust it. I therefore strongly advise that Tosa not change again." As Ryoma spoke, the roar of thunder echoed against the hills in the east, and a heavy rain began to fall.

"I fully understand," Sasaki said. "But let me say this: Lord Yodo, Goto and many others who once supported Edo, now completely endorse your plan for a peaceful end to Tokugawa rule. For this reason you can be certain that the Great Play in Kyoto will be acted out to the end."

Ryoma burst out laughing. "Sasaki," he blurted, as another roar of thunder seemed to shatter the sky, "I like your analogy of the Great Play. But I'd like it even more if we could get on with the performance," he quipped, drawing laughter even from the rigid Nakaoka.

The three men spent the entire evening speaking of the Great Play which was before them, its leading actors and the subjects of war and peace. They discussed Saigo, Komatsu and Okubo of Satsuma; Goto and Inui of Tosa; Iwakura of Kyoto; Katsura and Ito of Choshu. Ryoma talked about Katsu Kaishu's Group of Four. He fascinated Sasaki with his plans to exploit the natural resources of the northern territories, and, after the fall of the Tokugawa, to bring his Kaientai around the world. By the time the rain had subsided, it was close to midnight, and Ryoma realized that Sasaki was indeed different from the traditional close-minded upper-samurai of Tosa, although not nearly as sophisticated as Goto.

"Shinta," Ryoma said as the two walked back to the Vinegar Store that night, "if we can educate Sasaki a little, I think he could really be an important asset to us in the coming months."

At the end of July, news of the murder of two British sailors in Nagasaki would prove Ryoma's prediction correct, although not in a way he had anticipated. When circumstantial evidence aroused suspicion that the murderer was a man of the Kaientai, not only was Ryoma's scheme to "educate" the commissioner of justice put on hold, but his great plan for peaceful restoration was suddenly endangered.

On the night of July 6, two crew members of the British warship Icarus were found murdered in the Maruyama pleasure quarter. The two sailors, whom the British Legation claimed had been "lying in a drunken sleep on the roadway" when they were attacked, had apparently sparked the outrage of a still unidentified samurai, who, in turn, made short work of both foreigners with two strokes of his sword. A subsequent investigation by the enraged British minister, Sir Harry Parkes, concluded that on the morning after the crime the Kaientai schooner Yokobue had suspiciously left the Port of Nagasaki, followed soon after by the Tosa gunboat Nankai. While the Nankai had steamed directly to Tosa, the Yokobue sailed back to Nagasaki around noon of the same day. Rumor had it that a man wearing two swords and the navy whites of the Kaientai had been spotted near the scene of the crime at around the same time the two sailors were believed to have been killed. Concluding that this was indeed a member of Ryoma's private navy, Parkes demanded that the Nagasaki Magistrate take action against the Kaientai. He claimed that the murderer had left Nagasaki on the Yokobue, transferred at open sea to the Nankai, and escaped thereafter to Tosa; to which the magistrate replied there was insufficient evidence to justify further investigation. Indignant at what he considered incompetence by the magistrate, Parkes appealed directly to the Shogun's prime minister at Osaka Castle, demanding that the investigation be brought to Tosa Han. The prime minister promised to send a mission of Tokugawa officials to Kochi, and suggested to Tosa's Osaka headquarters that their highest-ranking officials in Kyoto-Osaka accompany them.

"But I absolutely refused to accompany them," Sasaki told Ryoma at the Vinegar Store on the night of July 28, after he finished relaying the details of the Icarus Affair.

"My men are innocent," was Ryoma's immediate reaction.

"How can you be sure?" Sasaki asked. "You're in Kyoto, and they're in Nagasaki."

"How can I be sure?" Ryoma hollered indignantly. "Simple. International cooperation is a basic policy of the Kaientai. All of my men are familiar with Elements of International Law. It's our company's handbook. Anyway, none of them would ever kill a man in cold blood."

The answer surprised the commissioner of justice, who was nonetheless impressed. "We have to convince Parkes of that," he said.

"Before this thing turns into a war between Tosa and England," Ryoma added ominously. "Because I have no doubt that war is what the Bakufu wants. Edo will use this thing for its own selfish gains, just like it did when the British attacked Satsuma over the murder of the Englishman at Namamugi."

"Yes," Sasaki bitterly confirmed.

"Of all the bad timing," Ryoma groaned.

"That it is," Sasaki said. "But anyway, I have to get to headquarters in Osaka right away to make arrangements for my immediate return to Tosa. If you need me, you can find me there."

"Sasaki," Ryoma said, "no matter what happens, we have to make sure that this thing doesn't interfere with our plan for peaceful restoration."

Ryoma's anxiety was not unfounded. The British minister himself was due to leave soon for Tosa with the Tokugawa mission to press that han to find and punish the murderer of the two sailors in Nagasaki, according to international law.

"According to international law," Ryoma told himself as he headed south by riverboat that evening. "The only way to handle this whole mess is according to international law." Ryoma was on his way to Osaka to discuss the matter with Yonosuke and Kenkichi; but first he wanted to make a brief stop along the way at Fushimi.

"Sakamoto-san!" Otose greeted him at the front door of the Teradaya. "What a surprise!" The two had not met since Ryoma had been attacked at this riverside inn over one and a half years before, although they had been in contact by mail.

"I can't stay long," Ryoma said, sitting down on the polished wooden floor near the entranceway.

"What's the trouble?" Otose asked, taking worried notice of Ryoma's uncharacteristically grim expression.

"There's been trouble in Nagasaki," Ryoma said, then after telling Otose about the Icarus Affair, added with perfect sincerity, "The very future of Japan is at stake, and it's up to me to make things right."

"What ever are you talking about, Sakamoto-san?" the proprietress asked with sarcastic laughter. "I've heard you boast before, but this is a bit much."

"I'm serious. But as I said, I can't stay long. I just stopped by to see how you are."

"Where are you going?"

"To Osaka."

"Osaka?" Otose said sarcastically. "If you're going to Osaka, why not visit the castle. I'm sure there are some people there who would be more than happy to see Sakamoto Ryoma," she snickered, alluding to the Bakufu's ubiquitous wanted posters which branded him as one of the most dangerous criminals in Japan. "But in all seriousness," Otose changed her tone, "you must be careful."

"Wait a minute," Ryoma suddenly exploded, ignoring the warning. "Otose-san, you've just given me a good idea."

"I have?"

"Yes. A way to keep Tosa out of a war with England."


"If I'm correct, Lord Shungaku of Fukui should be at his Osaka estate right now."


"And I'm going to pay him a visit."

Leaving Otose not a little bit worried, Ryoma caught a riverboat to Osaka, arriving there late the following morning, and proceeding directly to the estate of Matsudaira Shungaku. Although the Lord of Fukui had resigned his post of Political Director of the Bakufu over four years before, he retained his influence in the Edo regime. Ryoma would ask Shungaku to write a letter to Yodo, advising that Tosa act in a reasonable manner according to international law, when dealing with the British. Not only was Ryoma worried that the hotheaded samurai in Tosa might opt for a war with the British, but he was also concerned that Yodo, who was notorious for his brazen behavior, might anger the British minister to such a degree that war between Tosa and England would be unavoidable.

Everything must be handled according to international law, Ryoma insisted now, as he had during his recent ordeal with Kii over the Iroha Maru Incident. Ryoma was confident that his men in Nagasaki had not committed the murders; it was through international law that he would prove their innocence, and avoid an untimely war between Tosa and Britain.

"Strange," Ryoma said to himself on this afternoon of the last day of July, crossing Yodoya Bridge to the long, narrow island at the center of the Yodogawa, on which were situated the Osaka estates of several feudal lords, including that of Lord Shungaku. "Strange," he repeated, as he approached the black and white outer wall of the Fukui estate, before identifying himself to one of the guards at the gate, who immediately recognized him and allowed him entrance. Strange indeed! While he would never be permitted an audience with the daimyo of his native Tosa, one of the Bakufu's most wanted men had no problem, even at the spur of the moment, arranging a meeting with the Lord of Fukui, who was outranked only by the lords of the six Tokugawa Branch Houses, and nobody else in all of Japan. Such was Ryoma's influence among Katsu Kaishu's influential Group of Four.

Soon he was shown to the drawing room of the daimyo, where he divulged his plan to Lord Shungaku. "According to international law," Shungaku repeated Ryoma's words, impressed, as always, by this outlaw who was determined to save Japan.

"Yes," Ryoma said. "If any of the clans, particularly one as large as Tosa, does not comply with international law, as guaranteed in the foreign treaties, the Western powers will consider Japan a rogue nation and never treat us on an equal basis."

"Ryoma," Shungaku said with a slight smile, "you never cease to amaze me. Of course I'll write a letter to Lord Yodo."

Later that afternoon Ryoma left Shungaku's estate with the letter in his pocket. He hurried to the nearby Tosa headquarters, where he intended to deliver the letter to Sasaki Sanshiro, who in turn would bring it to Lord Yodo in Kochi.

Whenever possible, Ryoma avoided Tosa headquarters in Kyoto and Osaka. While, with the establishment of the Kaientai, he had, for all means and purposes, been pardoned for his crime of fleeing Tosa, neither Goto nor Fukuoka had submitted the proper papers to the administrative office in Kochi, and so officially Ryoma was still a fugitive. As he had already been pardoned once for the same crime, both ministers feared the wrath of Lord Yodo—who disdained the infidelity of the Loyalists who had abandoned his domain—should such papers be called to his attention. And while Ryoma was not about to let such a trivial matter interfere with the all-important matter at hand, not such was the case of the officials in charge at Tosa headquarters.

"Sakamoto Ryoma here!" Ryoma shouted at the entranceway. "I must see Sasaki Sanshiro."

The caretaker of the headquarters, an upper-samurai in his late fifties, rushed from his office near the front of the building. This was a different man from the one who had been in charge during Ryoma's recent visit here with Goto. "Sakamoto Ryoma!" he exclaimed. "Aren't you the younger brother of Sakamoto Gombei from the Castletown?"

"Yes," Ryoma snarled, anticipating the caretaker's reaction.

"I have orders to arrest you for the crime of fleeing Tosa."

"Are you crazy?" Ryoma scoffed. "Haven't you heard about our navy?"


"Then you'd better ask someone around here about it, because it's sponsored by Tosa, and I'm the commander."

"Oh?" the caretaker said blankly.

"Yes," Ryoma jeered. "And if you still insist on arresting me, you'll have to answer to Goto Shojiro."

"Minister Goto?"

"Do you know of any other Goto Shojiro?" Ryoma replied sarcastically.

"But I'm under orders to..."

"To hell with your damn orders. I have to find Sasaki, and fast. Unless, of course, you'd rather see Tosa in a war with Britain."

"What are you talking about, Sakamoto?" the old man snapped.

"I don't have time to explain. Just bring me to Sasaki."

"He's not here."

"Where is he?" Ryoma demanded.

"Why do you want to know?" the caretaker said suspiciously.

"I just told you," Ryoma hollered. "To keep Tosa out of a war with Britain."

"Sakamoto!" the old man shouted, "I've had enough of your impertinence."

"Then I'll leave, if you'll just tell me where I can find Sasaki."

"Certainly you don't expect me to reveal the whereabouts of the commissioner of justice of Tosa Han to a criminal like you," the caretaker shouted.

"I can see you're not going to," Ryoma said angrily. "But if British warships bombard the coast of Tosa, remember that it's your own fault." Ryoma left Tosa headquarters, disgusted by the petty smugness that had vexed him as long as he could remember. Unlike Saigo and Okubo of Satsuma, not to mention Goto and Sasaki of Tosa, all of whom occupied top posts in their respective han, Ryoma had no choice but to act under the stigma of a wanted man. Not only was he without the benefit of the Tosa estates in Kyoto and Osaka, but he was even in danger of arrest by Tosa men stationed there. And even if he were to return to Tosa to receive an official pardon—which he had no intention of doing—he would still be nothing more than a lower-samurai, with no position of authority to help him actualize his great plan. "But no matter," he told himself over and over again. "I have to make the best of a rotten situation if I'm ever going to correct it." The rotten situation was none other than the entire feudal system.

There were, however, some men among the younger generation of Tosa's upper-samurai—influenced by Goto, Sasaki and others—who had strong Loyalist sympathies. And fortunately, Ryoma was approached by such a man, in the street shortly after leaving the Tosa estate.

"Sakamoto-san," the man called. "Over here. I've heard all about your navy from Sasaki-san. He's told me to assist you in any way I can, should you show up while he's away."

"Where is he now?" Ryoma asked.

"At Satsuma headquarters to talk to Saigo about borrowing a ship to sail back to Tosa."

"Thanks," Ryoma said, bowed his head slightly, and took off at a dead run to the nearby Satsuma headquarters. But when he arrived shortly after, he found that Saigo was out. "I'll wait," he told the caretaker, who, unlike his Tosa counterpart, treated Ryoma with the utmost of respect. After what seemed to be two very long hours, Saigo finally returned, and informed that he had heard the details of the Icarus Affair first from the interpreter to the British minister, Ernest Satow, then from Sasaki, who had also mentioned the danger of war between Tosa and Britain.

"Where's Sasaki now?" Ryoma asked anxiously.

"He left for Kobe a few hours ago to return to Tosa."

Since there were no Tosa ships at the Ports of Kobe or Osaka, and since Sasaki was firm in his refusal of the Bakufu's offer of transport aboard either a Tokugawa or British warship, Saigo arranged passage for him on the Satsuma steamer Mikuni Mam. "But I don't know if you'll be able to catch him before the ship leaves," Saigo told Ryoma, apologetically. "He seemed to be in an awful hurry when I told him that the British Legation would be sailing soon for Tosa."

"I must catch him," Ryoma said, then told Saigo about the letter he was carrying from Shungaku to Yodo. "If I don't get this letter to Sasaki before he leaves, Tosa may never have the chance to fight alongside Satsuma and Choshu against the Bakufu."

"I see," Saigo said, nodding grimly.

"And like I've told you before, Saigo-san, I don't believe we can beat the Tokugawa Navy without Tosa on our side." Although Ryoma, now as before, preferred to avoid civil war, he was well aware that Saigo was anxious to crush the Bakufu militarily, as indeed he himself would be if his plan for peaceful restoration failed.

"Then you'd better leave right away," Saigo urged. "Kobe is about ten leagues from here."

"Before I go, I want to remind you of your promise not to attack the Bakufu until Yodo has the chance to petition the Shogun to abdicate peacefully."

"I haven't forgotten," the great man replied evasively, but with no time to spare for argument, Ryoma immediately left Satsuma headquarters in Osaka on a swift horse provided by Saigo. Having made the 25-mile journey in less than four hours, Ryoma reached the Port of Kobe shortly after midnight. Lying in port were dozens of ships; and although each was equipped with bright lanterns displaying the crest of her own han, the nearsighted Ryoma could not distinguish them "Is the Mikuni Maru still here?" he asked an old bargeman at the pier.

"Do you mean the Satsuma ship?" the bargeman replied lazily.

"Yes. Has she left yet?" Ryoma repeated impatiently.

"No, not yet. Can't you see her over there?" the bargeman asked, pointing at a triple-masted schooner.

"I can't make out the crest."

"Well, she's flying the Satsuma crest, and will be leaving port any time now."

"I have to get to her before she leaves," Ryoma said, and reaching into his pocket, handed the man a gold coin, equivalent to a month's wages for a bargeman. "After you take me to the ship, see to it that this horse gets back to Satsuma headquarters in Osaka."

Soon Ryoma boarded the barge, and arrived at the Satsuma ship minutes later. "Sakamoto Ryoma here!" he called at the top of his lungs at the starboard of the huge ship. "I've come to see Sasaki Sanshiro on urgent business."

A sailor dropped a rope ladder, and Ryoma climbed aboard. "Where's Sasaki?" he asked the sailor, who immediately showed him to Sasaki's cabin below deck.

"Who's there?" Sasaki shouted as Ryoma suddenly burst through the door. "Ryoma! What are you doing here?" With Sasaki was another, older man whom Ryoma did not know, but as Sasaki informed, was Tosa Minister Yui Inai.

"I've come with a letter from the Lord of Fukui," Ryoma said. "You must deliver it to Lord Yodo." Ryoma handed the letter to Sasaki, who carefully unfolded it and began reading aloud.

"So," Sasaki said after he had finished reading, "Lord Shungaku advises Lord Yodo to settle this matter according to international law." Then with a burst of laughter, "It sounds like you might have written it yourself, Ryoma."

Rather than admitting that he had indeed dictated the gist of the letter to the Fukui daimyo, Ryoma asked Sasaki and Yui what they thought of Shungaku's advice.

"That's exactly what we intend to do," Yui informed. "Lord Yodo is of similar mind. When dealing with the British we are determined to obey international law."

"To avoid war?" Ryoma confirmed.

"Yes," Sasaki said, "but we will never give in to their insistence that it was a Tosa man who killed the two sailors."

"What if the British are able to come up with some kind of proof incriminating a Tosa man?" Ryoma asked.

"Then we'll have to take the blame for it, according to international law," Sasaki said matter-of-factly.

"That's all I wanted to hear," Ryoma said. "But whatever happens, we can't let this thing interfere with our plan for peaceful restoration."

"You're right," Sasaki said, then with a worried expression informed Ryoma that the Tokugawa war steamer Eagle and the British warship Basilisk were also at Kobe, ready to sail to Tosa. "We must get there before the British Legation does, to warn Lord Yodo, and to prevent any trouble."

"I don't think the British will offer any trouble unless provoked," Ryoma said.

"That's what I'm worried about," Sasaki said. "Once word spreads that the British claim a Tosa man is guilty of the murders, there's no telling when those hotheads back home might open fire on the British ship."

"Most of the samurai in Tosa have never been away from Tosa," Ryoma snickered, "let alone seen a foreigner." What Ryoma wanted to say but didn't, partially out of deference to Sasaki, was that three centuries of complacency under Yamanouchi rule had left Tosa's upper-samurai so incompetent that most of them had no ability whatsoever when it came to the business of governing or foreign affairs.

"Yes," Sasaki said, troubled by the remark, particularly in the presence of Minister Yui, who pretended not to hear it. "But Ryoma, what are you doing here?" Sasaki asked, as if to change the subject.

"What do you think? I came to deliver Lord Shungaku's letter. But," Ryoma laughed, "since you already intend to follow the same policy that Lord Shungaku advises, it looks like I went to a lot of trouble for nothing. I should have stayed in Osaka. I'll be going back there now to..."

Before Ryoma could finish speaking, the ship's steam whistle blew, and Sasaki hollered, "We're moving!"

"We are at that," Ryoma confirmed.

"But you have to get off this ship," Sasaki gasped. "You can't come to Tosa now. It would be too dangerous."

"It looks like I have no choice," Ryoma said drolly, although he was well aware that these two elite officials would face nothing but trouble from the conservatives in Tosa if they were to return with one of the Bakufu's most wanted men aboard.

"But officially you're still wanted for fleeing the hem," Sasaki groaned.

"Don't worry," Ryoma said, "I'll hide below deck the whole time we're in Tosa."

The Satsuma men provided Ryoma with a cabin of his own, although rough seas kept him awake until morning, despite his exhaustion. He slept soundly until noon, when the ship cut a southwesterly arc around eastern Shikoku, and Ryoma got his first look at his native Tosa in over five and a half years. "It seems like a lifetime ago," he said aloud, as he thought of all that had happened, not only for himself, but for the entire nation, since he had fled with Sonojo on that rainy spring night in 1862. He reminisced fondly of his first meeting with Katsu Kaishu, but just as soon recalled with indignation the bombardment of Kagoshima and Shimonoseki by foreign ships. He thought about the coup which drove Choshu from Kyoto, the establishment of Kaishu's naval academy in Kobe and its demise with Choshu's failed countercoup in Kyoto which also spelled disaster for Hanpeita and the other Loyalists in Tosa. He laughed aloud as he recalled his first meeting with Saigo at Satsuma headquarters in Kyoto, and remembered proudly the founding of the Kameyama Company in Nagasaki, and the realization of the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance. Then came the near-fatal attack at the Teradaya, when Oryo had saved his life, and their honeymoon in the misty Kirishima mountains of Satsuma shortly after. "I wonder what she's doing at this very moment," he though sadly, but the sadness soon subsided as he was overcome by an inexplicable feeling of dread that he might never see his wife again. The faces of Miyoshi and Katsura flashed through his mind, as did those of his friends in the Kaientai. He thought of the sea battle in Shimonoseki when he and his men pounded the Kokura coast from the warship Union, and how Takasugi had led his Extraordinary Corps in battle despite the consumption that was killing him. "And all the others who have died for the nation," Ryoma said aloud, before telling himself, "Now, most importantly, Yodo must convince the Shogun to restore the power to the Emperor."

There had not been a foreigner in Tosa Han since a Spanish galleon was shipwrecked there in 1596. If the British Legation were to arrive before Sasaki and Yui could warn the authorities in Kochi, they feared that upper- and lower-samurai alike might commence hostile action against the foreigners without waiting for orders from the Tosa government.

Much to the relief of the two Tosa officials, not to mention the outlaw accompanying them, there was no sign of either a Tokugawa or British ship when the Satsuma steamer reached the Port of Susaki, some 25 miles west of Kochi Castletown, shortly before sundown on August 2. Susaki was the best port in Tosa. While the Port of Urado was much closer to the castletown, it had a narrow entrance, making it difficult for large ships to enter. Susaki, on the other hand, was not only deeper, but it was protected from the wind and open sea by mountains and islands, thus conducive to the probable purpose of shipboard discussions with the British.

There was, however, another steamer lying in Susaki when the Satsuma ship arrived. It flew the Yamanouchi crest of three oak leaves in a circle. "The Yugaol" Yui hollered the name of the ship, on board of which Ryoma had drafted his Great Plan at Sea two months before. "My son's the captain of the Yugao," the minister said.

"Then we can hide Ryoma on her while we're away," suggested Sasaki, who went immediately below deck to inform Ryoma of the plan.

"I'm truly sorry to put you through this," Sasaki, whose position as commissioner of justice made him the top police official in Tosa, said to the political outlaw in an appeasing tone, "but if anyone were to find out you were with us..."

"The YugaoT' Ryoma interrupted, ignoring Sasaki's apology.

"Yes. Would you mind?"

"Why should I mind?" Ryoma snickered. "If I have to stay hidden below deck, one ship's the same as another."

Soon Ryoma transferred to the Yugao, whereupon Sasaki and Yui landed. They went directly to the office of the local magistrate to inform him of the scheduled arrival of the Tokugawa and British warships, instructing him to suppress any hostilities which might threaten to occur among Tosa samurai. From there, despite heavy rain, Sasaki and Yui set out after dark by palanquin on the 25-mile trip to Kochi Castletown, arriving there the next morning.

Wet, disheveled and exhausted from their journey, Sasaki and Yui found Yodo in the sitting room of his villa, near the castle. He was alone, and as he had just awaken, had not yet taken up the sake flask. "Sit," Yodo abruptly ordered when his two retainers entered the room, "and tell me what all the ruckus is about with the foreigners."

After Sasaki relayed the details of the Icarus Affair, which Yodo had already read about in numerous letters from his Osaka and Kyoto headquarters, the commissioner of justice informed the daimyo of the relentless claim by the British that it was a Tosa man who had killed the two sailors, and of the Bakufu's apparent hope that British warships would bombard Kochi as they had Kagoshima and Shimonoseki. Yodo, however, did not get riled, but rather listened silently, with an occasional nod or grunt, throughout the long explanation, at the end of which Sasaki produced a letter from his kimono. "This is from Lord Shungaku of Fukui," he said. "He urges that we spare no effort in avoiding a war with the British."

When Yodo finished reading the letter, Sasaki informed that it had been delivered to him by Sakamoto Ryoma, just before their ship left Kobe. After briefly summarizing Ryoma's activities, and his influence among the leaders of Satsuma and Choshu (but without mentioning that the plan for peaceful restoration was drafted by Ryoma), Sasaki added sheepishly, "And although Ryoma is still officially wanted for fleeing Tosa, he's come back with us. But to avoid trouble, we left him hiding below deck aboard the Yugao"

"After pondering the situation for a while," Sasaki's memoirs recall, "our lord broke out in laughter, saying, 'At any rate, it's certainly a troublesome matter. "' This was all that Yodo said about Ryoma, which was certainly not an indication of goodwill for the political criminal. Rather, the reticence of the elitist Lord of Tosa was merely a sign of his trust in the ability of his commissioner of justice.

Indeed, Sasaki proved his political ability over the next few days, preparing for the arrival of the British. His most formidable task during this time was to make sure that the administrative office in Kochi and the magistrates of the seven local districts of Tosa would suppress any uprisings among samurai outraged at the appearance of the British, whose warship Basilisk finally arrived at Susaki on the morning of August 6, two days after the Tokugawa steamer Eagle had dropped anchor there.

Early in the afternoon of the same day, as Ryoma watched the movement of the British sailors aboard the Basilisk, now moored just outside the harbor, and of the Tosa samurai on shore drilling for battle, he wondered what was happening with Sasaki in Kochi. As he asked himself aloud how much longer he would have to remain hidden below deck, an unexpected, but welcome visitor came aboard to see him. This was Okauchi Shuntaro, an old friend from Kochi who had come to confirm the rumor of Ryoma's return.

"You're actually back!" Okauchi exclaimed when he found Ryoma below deck.

"Very perceptive," Ryoma snickered.

"Does your family know you're back?"

"No," Ryoma answered bluntly, looking out a porthole at the British warship, then at the excited movement of the Tosa samurai on shore. While Sasaki was making every effort to subdue possible hostilities against the British, another high-ranking samurai—a former minister and one of Lord Yodo's favorite retainers—was busy preparing for war. This was Inui Taisuke, the leader of the anti-Bakufu radicals in Tosa whom Ryoma had recently praised as, beside Goto, the only one of "Yodo's elite who's worth his weight in spit." While Yodo and Goto endorsed the plan for peaceful restoration, Inui, whom Yodo had recently put in charge of reforming the Tosa military, shared the bellicose sentiments of Satsuma and Choshu. Shortly after Yodo had appointed this thirty-one-year-old vassal as commanding officer of the Tosa Army—partly to allay Inui's displeasure for the peace plan—Inui abolished outdated, ancient modes of warfare, and replaced them with Western methods he had learned in Edo. But modern weapons and tactics emphasized the training of the masses at the cost of the traditional valor which the samurai so greatly valued. Guns had traditionally been regarded as the weapons of the less honorable ranks, unfit for the elite classes, who for generations had been armed with the sword, spear and bow and arrow. While these radical changes earned Inui the resentment of many of the pro-Bakufu conservatives in Tosa, most of his troops, and all of his commanders, shared their leader's anti-Tokugawa sentiments and his burning desire to go to war against Edo. When word reached Kochi of the arrival of the Tokugawa and British warships, Inui's troops immediately took up positions, not only at the Port of Susaki, but at several other locations along the coast, where they had constructed cannon batteries. It was not without derision that Ryoma now watched the drilling of these fanatics.

"Okauchi," Ryoma said, "what are those troops on shore so damned excited about?"

"It looks like they're preparing for war."

"Take a look at that," Ryoma scoffed, pointing through the porthole at the British warship, still anchored in the offing. "There's no flag flying on her mast, which means the British have no intention of fighting."

"I didn't know that," Okauchi said.

"Neither apparently does the commanding officer of the Tosa Army," Ryoma snickered. "I want you to go to Kochi and ask Inui if, under the given circumstances, he doesn't think it's kind of ridiculous for his troops to be raising such a ruckus."

Okauchi left immediately, arriving at Inui's headquarters a few hours later. After Okauchi had relayed Ryoma's message to Inui, the latter simply laughed, without offering an answer to Ryoma's comment. But one of his top lieutenants sitting nearby said, "Tell Ryoma he doesn't have to worry. Our troops are drilling for a war against the Bakufu, not the foreigners."

Okauchi returned directly to the Yugao to report the reply to Ryoma, who doubled over in laughter when he heard it.

Later that afternoon, Goto and a samurai attendant boarded a skiff from a pier at Susaki, whereupon the latter paddled through the smooth water to the Yugao. Before beginning discussions with the British concerning their claim that Tosa men were guilty of the murders in Nagasaki, Goto wanted to reconfirm one important fact with Ryoma.

"Are you absolutely sure than none of your men committed the murder?" he asked Ryoma when he found him below deck.

"Absolutely," Ryoma insisted now as he had on previous occasions.

"Then I'm going to have to be tough with the British," Goto said with conviction, a sign of his trust in Ryoma.

"One last word of advice before you go," Ryoma said.


"Answer all their questions with complete honesty. You have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. If you conduct the negotiations in that spirit, I'm confident you'll be successful."

"Thanks," Goto said, before reboarding the skiff where his attendant was waiting. Soon the skiff reached the Basilisk, which lay just outside the harbor. The two men boarded the British warship, and were escorted by a sailor to the captain's quarters. Waiting for them in the wood paneled cabin, sitting at a long table, were British Minister Sir Harry Parkes and his interpreter Ernest Satow. The forty-one-year-old Parkes had come to Japan from China two years before, after having served as British Consul at Canton and Shanghai.

Sir Harry was a large man of an overbearing if not crude personality, shortcomings which were intensified by his large nose, heavy cheekbones, stringy dark hair combed back over the collar, and piercing dark eyes which seemed to shout out his position of authority when he was not doing so with his scowling mouth. His caustic personality notwithstanding, Sir Harry was the most able of all the foreign ministers in Japan during these most troubled of times. The eloquent Satow would attest to this in his memoirs by describing his chief as "invested with the prestige of a man who had looked death in the face with no ordinary heroism."

Goto concluded at first sight that Satow, who sat to the right of his chief, was the antithesis of Sir Harry in both appearance and manner. Bright, cool-headed and just twenty-four years old, Satow had the refined manners of a British aristocrat, and features befitting one of the elite class. He was light of complexion, with a slightly elongated face and sincere hazel eyes. He wore a neatly trimmed mustache above a finely chiseled mouth, his long dark hair slicked back and parted in the middle. He had first come to Japan as a student interpreter five years before, and was now fluent in both written and spoken Japanese. Satow's talents were by no means limited to linguistics, although he was indeed skilled with the pen. He had recently made a very insightful discovery about the political situation of his host country, which until that time had escaped the notice of all the foreign representatives in Japan. Satow reported that the Shogun was merely the most powerful among the feudal lords, while the true sovereign of the Japanese nation was the Emperor. The young diplomat's discovery led England to develop closer ties with Satsuma and Choshu at the exclusion of the Shogun, whom France erroneously continued to consider the sovereign of the nation even now, at the eve of Tokugawa collapse.

After the proper introductions had been made by the bilingual Satow, during which the British minister raised his massive frame from his chair and, with a threatening scowl, shook the Tosa minister's hand with a viselike grip, Goto calmly sat down and began speaking in a straightforward manner, not the least intimidated. He frankly explained that although investigations had been conducted in Tosa, there was no evidence found suggesting that any of his clansmen had committed the murders.

No sooner had Goto finished speaking than Sir Harry stood up, pounded his fist on the heavy wooden table, stomped on the floor, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "You're full of shit!"

While Goto did not understand the meaning of the obscenity, he comprehended very well the British minister's intent, but nevertheless remained calm.

"I insist that you find the son a of bitch who murdered British sailors, even if you have to interrogate every last one of your fucking men," Sir Harry continued his tirade.

Satow, like Goto, retained his composure. He had anticipated that his chief would become enraged at the first mention of Tosa innocence, but was nevertheless obligated to translate for Goto the gist of Sir Harry's words, diplomatically omitting the obscenities. He was, however, unable to fool the Tosa minister, who countered with perfect calm, all the while staring hard into Sir Harry's eyes. "Mr. Minister," Goto said, "I am at a complete loss as to whether you have come here to negotiate the matter at hand, or to challenge us to a fight. If you insist on behaving so atrociously before an envoy of the Lord of the great domain of Tosa, then we had better cancel these discussions right now."

After Satow whispered into Sir Harry's ear, the British minister, apparently taken completely off guard, suddenly changed his attitude, and apologized profusely to the Tosa men. This Satow gladly translated, along with his chief's explanation that because overbearing behavior had always been successful during negotiations with the Chinese, he had assumed that it would work with the Japanese, but that he had greatly mistaken.

"No need for further apology," Goto assured, because he himself was assured that his point had been well taken.

Until now, Sir Harry's negotiations with the Japanese had been limited almost exclusively to Satsuma, Choshu and Edo. Since Britain had already established friendly ties with the latter two before Sir Harry's arrival to Japan, he had neither occasion nor reason to try to intimidate the samurai of Satsuma and Choshu. If he had, he would have undoubtedly failed, and this first meeting with a Tosa samurai would have gone that much smoother. As for the Tokugawa officials Sir Harry had thus far dealt with, they had yielded to his demands much less out of intimidation than out of discomposure over his crude outbursts. But now, after the admonition from Goto, the British minister realized that the samurai of Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa, at least, were not to be intimidated with the browbeating tactics by which he had bullied the Chinese, and in his own mind, the men of the Tokugawa. For the remainder of the discussion Sir Harry treated Goto not only with the deference deserving of a minister of a feudal lord, but with the reverence due one of Goto's strength of character. Before the meeting had ended, Sir Harry accepted without objection a further admonition from Goto, which Satow describes in his memoirs: Goto "remonstrated with Sir Harry at some length and in very explicit terms, about his rough demeanor... and hinted that perhaps others would not have submitted so quietly to such treatment."

Least of all the Tosa troops on shore, whose incessant drilling had at last incited the anxiety of the British minister. "What are those men doing?" Sir Harry demanded, but, having taken Goto's warning to heart, in a mild tone.

"Who?" Goto feigned nonchalance, looking through a porthole at his furious clansmen on shore. "Oh, them?" he chuckled. "They're just hunting wild boar, is all," he lied, drawing a snicker from Sir Harry, who after Goto had left would tell Satow, "That was one of the most intelligent Japanese I've ever met."

Such commendation aside, Sir Harry's unyielding insistence that a Tosa man was guilty, and Goto's adamant denial of those charges, left the two ministers with no alternative but to conclude this day's discussion without the slightest hope of finding an immediate solution to the problem at hand.

On the next day a similar meeting was held, but still nothing was solved. And despite the efforts that the Tosa men swore were being made in their domain to find the murderer, they were unable to disclose any evidence whatsoever incriminating any one of their clan. Much to Sir Harry's chagrin, and to the relief of the Tosa men, it was therefore decided that the investigation be moved to Nagasaki, where it would be conducted jointly by Tosa and Britain, and presided over by Bakufu officials. On August 10, the warship Basilisk, with Sir Harry aboard, set sail for Edo, leaving Satow to represent the British side in Nagasaki.

At any event, it appeared certain that war between Britain and Tosa had been avoided. On the night of August 12, Sasaki, Okauchi and Satow boarded the Yugao, where Ryoma was beside himself with boredom for having been cooped up below deck for ten days, but relieved to hear from Sasaki that they would be sailing immediately for Nagasaki, via Shimonoseki.

The trip was not pleasant, nor were the Tosa men on board in good spirits, as attested to by Ernest Satow, who wrote, "Badfood, a dirty cabin, excessive heat, sullen fellow-voyagers were all accepted with the calmness of exhausted misery."

Ryoma, for his part, had plenty of reason to be sullen, if not miserable. Goto had stayed behind in Kochi, to, as Sasaki informed, "take care of official business." "Official business," Ryoma sneered. "If he doesn't get back to Kyoto real soon, we're going to have a civil war on our hands."

"He'll get there," Sasaki assured, "just as soon as we've settled the Icarus problem in Nagasaki. Besides," he added with a snicker, "we need Goto in Kochi for the time being to keep Inui under control. There's no telling when that maniac might decide to bring his army to Kyoto, with or without permission from Lord Yodo."

"I must hand it to Inui," Ryoma said sardonically. "He has more guts than all of those lackeys back in Tosa put together."

Ryoma was indeed in a sullen mood that night, as he fretted that Yodo's memorial might not reach the Shogun before Satsuma and Choshu attacked. "With things so critical now in Kyoto, I have something to tell you," he wrote Miyoshi two days later, after reaching Shimonoseki. "Recently, Satsuma... has determined to fight the Bakufu, but is still waiting for Goto Shojiro of Tosa to get to Kyoto," as Ryoma was promised by Saigo and Komatsu. This is not to say, however, that Ryoma himself was not resolved to fight if war could not be avoided. But, as he predicted in his letter to Miyoshi, "Unless the warships of Choshu, Chofu (a Choshu-related clan), Satsuma and Tosa fight side by side, we '11 be no match for the Bakufu Navy."

At Sasaki's request Ryoma remained hidden in his cabin throughout most of the journey, except to get a breath of fresh air on deck just after the ship had left Tosa. It was at this time that Ryoma first encountered Satow, who had no way of knowing that the slovenly dressed, sullen man who squinted as he scowled, was none other than Sakamoto Ryoma, commander of the Kaientai, architect of the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance and author of the plan, of which he himself had recently heard from Saigo, for peaceful restoration and adoption of a parliamentary form of government in Japan. Ryoma simply ignored the Englishman, who was even less anxious to speak to the scowling samurai. Ryoma, to be sure, would have liked to have talked with Satow, if for no other reason than to convince him that none of his men were guilty of the murder of the British sailors. But Sasaki had asked Ryoma to stay away from the Englishman. "If the British find out that the commander of the Kaientai had been in Tosa all along," Sasaki had warned, "they'll certainly be suspicious."

"The boilers were old, and we steamed along at the rate of two knots an hour," Satow wrote. "Luckily the weather was calm, otherwise there was every reason to think we must have gone to the bottom."

The little ship dropped anchor at Shimonoseki at around eight o'clock on the morning of August 14, just long enough for Ryoma to bring Sasaki and Okauchi ashore to introduce them to a very special person.

"Who are we going to meet?" Sasaki asked as they walked along the main coastal road leading to the estate of Ito Kuzo.

"A real beauty from Kyoto!" Ryoma boasted. When the three Tosa men reached Ito's estate, the Kyoto beauty was so ecstatic to see her husband that she forgot her manners in front of Sasaki and Okauchi.

"You're filthy!" were the first words out of Oryo's mouth. Indeed, after spending nearly two weeks below deck, Ryoma's face and hands were black from soot, and his wrinkled and badly soiled clothes smelled of sweat and engine oil.

"Do I smell that bad?" Ryoma asked, glancing uneasily at Sasaki and Okauchi. "Oryo, I want you to meet a couple of friends of mine from Tosa."

"You need a bath," Oryo insisted, Sasaki winced, and Ryoma chuckled with embarrassment.

"She means me," Ryoma assured the astonished commissioner of justice, as Okauchi, out of deference to Ryoma, looked the other way.

"She was a famous beauty," Sasaki would write of Oryo, "but I don't know whether or not she was a good wife."

Sasaki's doubts were uncalled for; Oryo was a good wife, although her dislike of cooking, sewing, housework and other such matronly duties differentiated her from the type of woman the more traditional-minded Sasaki would have considered marrying.

Oryo knew that in order to convince Ryoma to take a bath she would have to go to extremes. And Ryoma did take a bath; and Oryo scrubbed his back; and afterward she served the three men a meal of grilled fish, steamed white rice, miso soup and pickled vegetables. Later that afternoon, much to Oryo's discontent, Ryoma returned with Sasaki and Okauchi to their ship, which left immediately for Nagasaki, with Ernest Satow aboard.

The small Tosa steamer reached Nagasaki on the next afternoon, whereupon Ryoma reported directly to Kaientai headquarters. He was anxious to speak to his men about the Icarus Affair, as he had not seen any of them since the murders of the British sailors. Sasaki and Okauchi, meanwhile, stayed at an inn near the center of town, and Satow went to the home of British Consul Marcus Flowers.

When Ryoma arrived at headquarters, Eishiro, Sakutaro, Sonojo, Taro and Kanema were waiting for him. Umanosuke, Shunme and some of the others had recently joined Kenkichi and Yonosuke in Osaka to attend to commercial matters. After relaying the events which had occurred in Tosa, Ryoma said, "The inquiry starts tomorrow at the magistrate's office. But before that, there's one thing I have to know." He looked hard at all five men. "Did any of you do it?" "No," Sonojo firmly assured.

"I knew you didn't," Ryoma said. "But what were you doing on the Yokobue at that particular time?" he asked, referring to the Kaientai schooner which the British claimed had left port before dawn of the morning after the crime, only to return by noon of the same day, after the killers had allegedly transferred to the Tosa steamer Nankai to escape to Kochi. "And why did you leave port just to come back so soon?"

"We were practicing," Sakutaro said. "Since we had just recently gotten hold of a ship, we wanted to take her on a trial run before we took her out with a full load of cargo." "I see," Ryoma said.

"But," Sonojo added indignantly, "they suspect Tora of the murder." "Who suspects Tora?"

"The people at the magistrate's office," Taro said angrily. "He was at a brothel in Maruyama near the scene of the crime, on the same night the British sailors were killed."

"And," Eishiro added anxiously, "since there's a rumor going around that whoever did it was wearing the same navy whites we always wear, Tora is a prime suspect."

"As long as we know he's innocent, it doesn't matter what anyone suspects," Ryoma said. "Where is he?"

"In Kagoshima," Kanema said. "He left yesterday on the Yokobue to deliver a shipment."

"That only makes him look guilty," Ryoma said in disgust. "As if he were hiding there to avoid trouble."

"Actually," Sakutaro said, "we thought it would be best for him to get away from here for a while to give things time to cool off."

"I hope that the British don't insist on calling him back here for questioning," Ryoma said. "But he's innocent," Sonojo said.

"I know he's innocent," Ryoma groaned. "It's just that I don't want to have to wait around here for him to return. We have to settle this matter quickly so I can get to Kyoto." Ryoma was anxious to see Saigo as soon as possible to convince him to postpone his war plans long enough for Goto to deliver Yodo's petition to the Shogun. "I have an idea."

"What?" Eishiro asked.

"Offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the real killer."

"Fantastic!" Eishiro blurted, slapping his knee, as Kanema clapped his hands in approval.

"But what about the British?" Sonojo asked, returning to the matter at hand. "They suspect Tora."

"To hell with the British," Ryoma sneered. "And to hell with the Bakufu. So long as they don't have any proof, they can't touch us. And since none of us is guilty, they're not going to get any proof."

Later that evening Ryoma, Sakutaro and Sonojo visited the inn where Sasaki and Okauchi were staying. With them was Iwasaki Yataro, general manager of the Tosa Company. Iwasaki was a large man with a large face, bushy eyebrows, and a mustache which extended to the edge of his heavy jaw. Heading up the Tosa Company suited Iwasaki, who in six years from now would formally establish the Mitsubishi, based on the experience, business expertise and personal connections he would gain from Sakamoto Ryoma's Kaientai. Since the Kaientai officially belonged to Tosa, Iwasaki was in charge of the bookkeeping for Ryoma's company.

"I have an idea," Ryoma said, looking hard at Iwasaki, as Okauchi poured sake and the commissioner of justice grinned anxiously, because, as Sasaki would recall years later," "Saitani was a man of many ideas." "Let's hear it," he said eagerly on this sweltering summer evening, and Ryoma told of his plan to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer.

"Fantastic!" Okauchi blurted.

"Yes," Sasaki readily affirmed, as Ryoma and Sakutaro laughed derisively. "What's so funny?" asked the commissioner of justice, a little annoyed.

"The sullen look on Iwasaki's face," Ryoma said of the frugal general manager who had not offered comment on the proposal. "Set the reward at a thousand ryo," Ryoma demanded, then just as matter-of-factly drained his sake cup.

"A thousand?" Iwasaki echoed in disbelief. "That's impossible."

"Nothing's impossible," Ryoma chided with a scowl. "We can't be tight-assed about this. The bigger the reward the better our chances of finding the killer. And even if we don't find the killer, Tosa's offer to pay that much reward money might help convince the British of our innocence."

"But one thousand ryo..." Sasaki started.

"What's more important," Ryoma interrupted, "you and your men being able to buy women in Maruyama, or the future of Japan?"

"What?" The commissioner of justice was indignant. "What's your point, Ryoma?"

"Think about it," Ryoma snickered, then turned sharply to Iwasaki. "How much money have Tosa officials spent carousing at Maruyama over the past month?"

"I couldn't answer offhand," Iwasaki said. "I'd have to check the books."

"But surely, Iwasaki, you have an idea how much money you yourself have spent there over the past month."

"I see," Iwasaki said irritably, avoiding an answer, but drawing a derisive snicker from Sonojo.

"One thousand ryo or the future of Japan?" Ryoma rephrased the question so that it would be more palatable. "Because with all hell about to break lose in Kyoto, we have to get this thing settled soon."

"Alright," Iwasaki shrugged. "I'll come up with the money somehow."

"Good, Iwasaki," Ryoma said sarcastically. "I knew you had it in you. We'll start putting up posters around town first thing in the morning, to advertise the reward. We have to get things settled before there's a civil war."

"Civil war!" Sasaki repeated dryly. "What about your plan for peaceful restoration?"

"I don't want a war any more than you do," Ryoma said. "But Goto is still in Kochi, and I doubt Saigo will wait much longer. But what worries me is - whether or not Tosa will actually agree to fight against the Bakufu."

"Tosa will fight," Sasaki said firmly.

"If there's a war, it will have to," Ryoma corrected.

"You saw our troops drilling along the coast at Susaki," Okauchi offered.

"And," Sasaki added, "you know how determined Inui is to bring his army to Kyoto. If Lord Yodo tries to restrain him, I truly believe he'll flee Tosa with all of his troops."

"Sasaki," Ryoma said cynically, "let me ask you this: Is Tosa ready to fight?"

"Ready?" Sasaki looked blankly at Ryoma.

"Yes, ready." Are Tosa's troops properly armed for a war with the Tokugawa?"

"Inui has recently procured a few hundred American rifles, but a lot of our men are still armed with muskets," Sasaki admitted.

"Then we'd better get them ready," Ryoma said, drawing puzzled looks from both Tosa officials.

The investigation of the Icarus Affair was resumed at the office of the Nagasaki Magistrate three days later, on the morning of August 18. Representing Tosa were Sasaki, Okauchi and Sakutaro. Ernest Satow and Consul Marcus Flowers represented the British side, while the Tokugawa commissioner of foreign affairs and several of his underlings were present for the Bakufu.

Satow opened the hearing by pointing at Ryoma, and asking Sasaki in fluent Japanese, "Is this the man who was drinking at the House of the Flower Moon, which is near the scene of the crime, on the night our sailors were murdered?" Apparently Satow did not recognize Ryoma as the man he had seen on deck of the Yugao during the unpleasant trip from Tosa to Nagasaki.

"No!" Sasaki answered flatly for Ryoma, who burst out laughing, "...evidently with the object of ridiculing us out of our case," Satow wrote, "but he got a flea in his lug and shut up making the most diabolical faces." Ryoma had every reason to look diabolical. He knew what was coming next, and had been dreading it since he heard that Toranosuke was suspected of the murders. Nevertheless, as he was neither a Tosa official nor one of the accused, he was not allowed to testify or comment during the hearing. "This is the commander of the Kaientai, Saitani Umetaro," Sasaki introduced Ryoma to the British.

"Why isn't the accused here?" Satow asked, and when he was informed that Toranosuke was in Kagoshima, he insisted in no uncertain terms, and much to Ryoma's chagrin, that he return to Nagasaki for questioning, a demand so reasonable that the Tosa men were obliged to comply.

"Tora won't come back here unless I send my own men to get him," Ryoma told Sasaki in the latter's room after the hearing. "But with the Yugao gone, we only have two ships left. One of them, the Absolute, is with my men in Osaka; and the other, the Yokobue, is in Kagoshima with Tora."

"And you want him back here as soon as possible, right?" Sasaki ascertained.

"Yes. There's a Tokugawa steamer lying in port that we ought to be able to use."

"Which one?"

"The Nagasaki Maru," Ryoma said. "But we can't have anybody from the Bakufu going along for the ride."

"Why not?"

Ryoma burst out laughing. "That would only start the war we are trying so damn hard to avoid."

"I see your point," Sasaki remarked with a sardonic grin. "I'll make the necessary arrangements."

Sasaki held true to his word. On a rainy evening near the end of August, Okauchi—officially because he represented Tosa, but actually because he was friendly with Toranosuke—and several members of the Kaientai, steamed out of Nagasaki aboard the Tokugawa warship to retrieve their comrade in Kagoshima. Just before the ship was about leave, Ryoma called Okauchi aside, and said in a low voice, "I hear that Satsuma has recently been counterfeiting gold coins. See if you can get hold of a few of them to bring back to us."

"What for?"

"So we can learn how to make them ourselves. If fighting should break out, we'll need all the resources we can get to finance the war."

While Ryoma waited for his men to return, he was by no means idle. "Saitani would visit my room two or three times a day" Sasaki would recall in later years. "He 'd spend whole days there. He 'd make himself at home there." Ryoma had a specific purpose behind his visits. Although Sasaki was unaware, Ryoma had not forgotten his scheme to educate him, because while the Dragon no longer had any doubt about Goto, he was determined to make certain that he could count equally on Tosa's commissioner of justice when the going got rough, as he feared it would very soon in Kyoto.

Accordingly, for the remainder of the month of August and the beginning of September, Ryoma spent his days teaching Sasaki everything he himself had learned about parliamentary forms of government, American democracy, and the necessity of adopting a similar system to replace feudalism after the fall of the Tokugawa. The two men talked grimly of the dwindling possibilities of peaceful restoration, the threat of civil war and what they should do if fighting broke out, with Ryoma stressing that Tosa must fight on the side of Satsuma and Choshu if it hoped to have any kind of influence in the formation of a new Japanese government.

Also during this time there was many a night which Ryoma spent at the pleasure quarter of Maruyama. One night Ryoma was drinking at his favorite brothel, the House of the Flower Moon, with three geisha all to himself. The women were pretty, the wine was French, and, with war constantly on his mind, he thought he should share these pleasures with Sasaki. "Do you have anything to write with?" he asked one of the girls, who soon brought him writing utensils and paper. "The woman shogun and some others have just attacked, and I'm now fighting them," Ryoma wrote in a note he addressed to "Shogun Sasaki." "The sound of their arrows is awesome, and they 've already stormed across the banister on the second floor; but the other women troops have not yet arrived. It seems that they're waiting for me to drop my guard, then launch another attack. If you 're brave you '11 come immediately to join me in the battle." Sasaki soon came to Ryoma's "rescue," and shared in his delight of wine and women, as a brief repose to the legal battle they faced with the British, and the specter of war looming ominously above the nation.

On a more serious note, it was also during this time that Ryoma introduced Sasaki to one of the leading players in the drive to overthrow the Bakufu. Katsura Kogoro had come to Nagasaki, disguised as a Satsuma samurai, for two reasons. One was to repair a Choshu warship; the other was to meet with Ryoma to find out whether or not the architect of the plan for peaceful restoration was still determined to bring down the Tokugawa with military might.

Before calling on Ryoma, Katsura wanted to settle the matter of repairing the ship. When the bill was presented him, he found that he was 1,000 ryo short. When he told Ryoma of his financial straits, the latter wasted no time persuading Sasaki to loan the money to Choshu from the coffers of the Tosa Company. It was to thank Sasaki that Katsura asked Ryoma to arrange a meeting one rainy evening at a teahouse, located near the foot of the hills at the rear of the town, not far from the office of the Tosa Company. "Try to use this opportunity to impress on Sasaki the need for Tosa to oppose the Bakufu," Ryoma had told Katsura as the two approached the teahouse.

"That's not all I intend to impress on him," Katsura assured, as they passed through the thatched front gate of the teahouse. "I'd like to offer some advice to Tosa," Katsura said to Sasaki a short while later, as the three men sat around a low table in a private room. Again they were drinking French red wine, and had just finished discussing the impatience of Choshu and Satsuma to go to war, and Tosa's vowed support for these two han. Outside Ryoma had posted several of his men as guards. He was concerned for the safety of Katsura, who, like himself, was one of the Bakufu's most wanted men. But unlike Ryoma, who in Nagasaki was known as Saitani Umetaro, commander of the Kaientai, in the service of the Lord of Tosa, Katsura was obliged to travel incognito. The guards were a precaution, just in case the Choshu leader's identity should be discovered by the Nagasaki Magistrate.

"Advice?" Sasaki said, examining a short sword which Katsura had given him as a token of appreciation for the loan. "Tosa is always open to advice."

"Very well," Katsura began. "Tosa has repeatedly contradicted itself. First it claimed to wholeheartedly support Imperial Loyalism, then suddenly it took the side of the Bakufu. Now we are told that Tosa has pledged unwavering support to Satsuma in a secret alliance, which means it also supports Choshu against the Tokugawa. If I may be so bold, Tosa has been acting like a fickle woman," Katsura said sharply, drawing a burst of laughter from Ryoma.

"Yes," Sasaki painfully agreed, "but you can be sure that our han will never again renege on its vow to oppose the Tokugawa. That I can personally guarantee."

"If you'll forgive me," Katsura said, "how can we be sure of that?" Katsura was as cagey as always, but this time Ryoma shared his sentiment.

In answer to the question, Sasaki told Katsura the same thing he had recently told Ryoma, not the least of which was Inui's conviction to fight alongside Satsuma and Choshu.

"But Sasaki," Ryoma said, "we have to be sure that the narrow-minded conservatives in Tosa will be willing to fight, in case my plan doesn't work."

"About your plan, Sakamoto-san," Katsura's voice was low, his eyes grim. "But before we discuss that, first let me tell you what I've recently heard from the Englishman Ernest Satow."

"Satow," Ryoma interrupted. "We must convince him, and real quick, that our men are not guilty."

"Yes," Katsura said, before continuing with his train of thought. "When I saw Satow at the British Consulate, he offered some very interesting, but disturbing advice." Katsura spoke with his usual smoothness, concerning which Satow wrote, "Katsura was remarkable for his gentle suave manner, though under this there lay a character of the greatest courage and determination, both militarily and political."

"What kind of advice?" Sasaki asked.

"That if Satsuma, Tosa and Choshu can't accomplish the revolution after all we have been through," Katsura said in a low voice, "then the Europeans will look upon us as a bunch of old women. Now, I don't have to tell you that it is humiliating to be told such a thing by an interpreter to a foreign minister, but I tend to agree with him."

"Yes, quite," Ryoma snickered.

"And," Katsura said, "that brings me back to what I have to say about peaceful restoration. Certainly, Sakamoto-san, you haven't abandoned our plans for war," he said in exasperation. "Because the only way to eliminate the Bakufu is through war." Concerning this, Katsura's views were identical to those of Saigo.

"Katsura-san," Ryoma groaned, then explained to the Choshu leader the same thing he had told Saigo when revealing his plan to the Satsuma men. "It's the only way to get Tosa on your side. Lord Yodo has already agreed to send the memorial to the Shogun. If the Shogun agrees to restore the power to the Emperor, then there will be no need for war. If he refuses, then that'll be the end of him, because Tosa will no longer feel obligated to support him. At any rate, Goto has assured me that Tosa will fight alongside Satsuma and Choshu in case of war."

Katsura was not easily persuaded. "With the stage set in Kyoto and the Great Play about to begin," he likened the revolution to drama, "I don't think your plan can work."

"I like the way you put it," Sasaki exclaimed, slapping his knee, and asking Katsura to write these words down so that he could show them to the conservatives in Kochi.

Katsura promised to oblige, then Ryoma mentioned the recent formation of Nakaoka's Land Auxiliary Force. "We can thank Sasaki for that," he said. But it was Ryoma who had helped Nakaoka convince the commissioner of justice to pressure Tosa into officially authorizing and sponsoring his friend's private army, which Nakaoka had recently formed in Kyoto at Ryoma's suggestion. Similar in organization to Ryoma's Naval Auxiliary Force, Nakaoka's Land Auxiliary Force was headquartered at a minor estate which Tosa had recently purchased in northeastern Kyoto. Its initial membership of fifty-nine men consisted of Loyalists from various hart—mostly Tosa and Mito—whom Nakaoka had recruited in and around the Kyoto-Osaka area to protect from the Shinsengumi and other Tokugawa police units. Soon the number of recruits doubled, and now Nakaoka commanded a small Loyalist militia which would provide mobile force in the Kyoto area in case of war. "If the Shogun refuses to abdicate peacefully," Ryoma said emphatically, "then Nakaoka's private army will be ready to fight alongside Satsuma, Choshu and my private navy."

"We must join Nakaoka in Kyoto as soon as possible," Katsura said. "If we get there too late, it could be dangerous."

"Dangerous?" Ryoma snickered. "Of course it's dangerous. This whole damn business is dangerous. But since when has danger ever gotten in our way?"

"And if war comes?" Katsura asked.

"If war comes, we fight," Ryoma said, then glanced at the commissioner of justice. "That reminds me, Sasaki," he added, feigning nonchalance, "I've ordered some rifles for Tosa."

"You've what?" Sasaki was stunned. "Sakamoto Ryoma," he exclaimed, "you haven't abandoned your native Tosa after all."

"Thirteen hundred British-made carbines from a Dutch trader in Nagasaki," Ryoma informed, rubbing his hands together and ignoring Sasaki's remark. "One thousand for Tosa, and three hundred for my Kaientai. They ought to be arriving from Shanghai real soon." By no means did Ryoma limit his plans to peaceful revolution. His goal remained unchanged: toppling the Bakufu to clear the way for a new democratic form of government, based on his Great Plan at Sea.

"But Ryoma," Sasaki said, "has Tosa agreed to pay you for the rifles?"


"Then how do you plan to pay for them?" Sasaki asked.

"Maybe with Tokugawa gold," Ryoma said in perfect seriousness.

"Tokugawa gold?" Sasaki exclaimed. "What do you mean?"

"I'm informed that the Nagasaki Magistrate has ten thousand ryo stored here."

"Then why don't we go and get it?" Sasaki remarked facetiously.

"That's exactly what I intend to do," Ryoma said matter-of-factly, drawing an intense look from Katsura, "if war should break out. But first we have to settle the Icarus Affair so we can transport the guns to Tosa."

"But why would you do this for Tosa?" Sasaki asked in disbelief.

"Don't get me wrong, Sasaki. I'm not doing this for Tosa. As I just said, if my plan doesn't work we're going to have a war on our hands. And you've told me yourself that Tosa is in bad need of rifles."

"Yes," Sasaki said.

"Then that should answer your question," Ryoma said to Tosa's commissioner of justice, all the while looking hard into the grim eyes of Katsura Kogoro.

A few days later, on September 2, Okauchi and the others returned from Kagoshima, with Toranosuke.

"I want to make sure of one thing," Ryoma told Toranosuke when the group arrived at Kaientai headquarters shortly after. "It wasn't you who killed the sailors, right."

"I didn't do it, Ryoma," Toranosuke said.

"I never thought you did, but I had to make sure. And since you're innocent, remember that no matter what happens or what anyone says tomorrow at the magistrate's office, you didn't do it."

On the next day, Ryoma, Okauchi, Iwasaki, and the suspect Toranosuke reported to the magistrate's office for examination. Iwasaki had come in place of Sasaki, who had suddenly taken ill. No matter how Satow examined the suspect, no matter what type of question the magistrate threw at him, Toranosuke remained firm, always completing his answers with the phrase, "I am not guilty."

"But you admit to having been at a house of entertainment near the scene of the crime on the night of the murder?" Satow reconfirmed.

"Yes," Toranosuke said, "the House of the Flower Moon. But it wasn't the first time I had been there, nor was it the last. I'm not guilty."

"And you admit that you were wearing a white navy uniform such as the one you have on, and like the one that the killer was allegedly seen wearing?" Satow said.

"I was wearing the same clothes then as I am wearing now. It's my uniform. I'm not guilty."

"Having failed entirely in our attempts to bring the crime home to the Tosa people," Satow wrote, "Flowers and I agreed that it was useless for me to remain any longer," and the case was eventually dropped. In fact, there was one bit of information that seemed to disprove the allegations against the Kaientai. "On the Japanese side," Satow wrote, "the evidence went to show that the 'Nankai'did not leave till ten p.m. on the 6th August (July 6 on the lunar calendar), while Sir Harry s version was that she sailed at half-past four that morning, only an hour and a half after the schooner; and it was on this alleged fact that the whole of the suspicion against the Tosa men was founded."

The identity of the true murderer, a samurai of Fukuoka, was discovered in the following year. He had gone out on the night of July 6 with two friends to view the star festival in Nagasaki. Along the way the group happened upon two British sailors who lay drunk on the side of the road. Out of disgust, the Fukuoka man, who had also been drinking, drew his sword, making short work of the two foreigners. Two days later, afraid that Fukuoka Han might be implicated in the crime, the guilty man committed seppuku. Three years later, in 1871, Sir Harry Parkes would send a formal letter of apology to Lord Yodo, but as fate would have it, Ryoma's pardon would never be solicited.

With the Icarus Affair finally behind him, Ryoma was once again free to put his business acumen to work, directing his men with such efficiency, and moving with such speed, that he surprised even himself. Having previously ordered 1,300 carbines at a cost of 18,875 ryo from a Dutch trader by the name of Hartman, he now arranged a loan of 5,000 ryo from the Satsuma men, who trusted the Kaientai commander as one of their own. (The Kaientai had not yet received the money owed them by Kii Han.) Four thousand of this would cover the down payment for the rifles, and the remainder be used for business expenses. But trust was not the only thing that Ryoma had on his side; to the founder of Japan's first modern company, practicality was the binding agent of such virtues as trust, honesty and courage. "The guns are for Tosa, in case of war against the Bakufu," Ryoma explained to the Satsuma agent in Nagasaki, who was only too glad to oblige. "Instead of trying to convince those hardheads back in Kochi with words, I'm going to bring the damn guns there myself, and tell them to fight." Indeed, Sakamoto Ryoma, a firm believer in the adage "Action speaks louder than words," was nothing if not practical.

The balance of the purchase, over 14,000 ryo, was to be paid to Hartman within ninety days after delivery. How he would raise this enormous sum in such a short period of time, Ryoma left to fate. Should the Shogun agree to peaceful restoration, the announcement would surely be made within three months. If such were the case, Ryoma could collect the money from the new Imperial government as a military expenditure. Should the Shogun refuse, then there would be war, which was the very reason he must purchase the guns. A victory by the Imperial forces would also ensure the establishment of an Imperial government, which would pay the debt as an expenditure of war. If by some chance the Tokugawa were to emerge victorious, Ryoma didn't expect to be alive to worry about repaying the loan.

"But Sakamoto-san," Yonosuke, whom Ryoma had recently recalled from Osaka, had said when Ryoma mentioned his intentions, "is that entirely honorable."

"Honorable?" Ryoma snickered. "I don't really know, Yonosuke. All I can say is that if I live through this thing, Hartman will get his money."

Ryoma had recently sent several of his men to Osaka, with the Absolute and the Yokobue, to prepare for war. And while he himself was busy in Nagasaki arranging the loan and terms of payment for the rifles, Yonosuke and Sakutaro set about arranging the charter of a steamer to transport the guns to Tosa. But as is so often the case, no sooner had one problem been solved than another followed, as surely as the cool autumn wind blew into Nagasaki from the East China Sea. On the afternoon of September 11, the same day that the shipment of carbines arrived from Shanghai, Ryoma heard from Sasaki that Goto had recently reached Kyoto with Lord Yodo's petition for peaceful restoration, but without the troops he had promised in case the Shogun should refuse.

"You mean all he has with him is the damn petition?" Ryoma shouted indignantly. He knew that Saigo would take this as a sign of Tosa's opposition to war against the Bakufu, even if the Shogun should refuse to abdicate.

But as Ryoma suspected, Goto was not to blame. Rather, Yodo had forbidden his chief minister the military option, regardless of the promises Goto had made, on the grounds that he did not want to appear to be "threatening the Shogun."

"What about Inui?" Ryoma demanded.

"When Inui heard that Goto had left for Kyoto without troops, he went straight to Lord Yodo to demand that he be allowed to follow Goto with an army."


"Apparently," Sasaki winced, "Lord Yodo has threatened to send Inui to America."

"That's fantastic!" Ryoma roared, slammed his fist on the floor. "We're about to have a civil war, and Yodo's threatening to send the commander of his army overseas. Doesn't he realize that the only way to convince the Shogun to abdicate is by showing him that he has no other choice?" Ryoma paused momentarily, again slammed his fist on the floor. "Damn it!" he hissed, regained his composure, then groaned, "We're running of out time, Sasaki. Without troops there's no way that Goto is going to be able to convince Saigo to wait any longer. I'm the only one who might be able to do that. But first I have to get the rifles to Tosa."

If Ryoma's self-confidence was astounding, his reasoning was sound:

Goto's failure to fulfill his promise made war seem imminent. "And to make matters worse," Sasaki said, "many of the conservatives in Kochi don't realize how weak the Bakufu has become. They don't understand how Lord Yodo could dare to petition the Shogun to abdicate. They're afraid that the Tokugawa might punish Tosa for such a bold act."

"Then maybe one thousand carbines will change their minds," Ryoma said cynically.

"One thousand? I thought you said you bought thirteen hundred."

"I did. Three hundred for the Kaientai."

"I see."

"But no matter what," Ryoma said, "I have to make those idiots in Kochi understand what's really happening, and that things are coming to a head in Kyoto." Although Ryoma was still unaware, two days after Goto had reached Kyoto, some 3,000 Satsuma samurai had arrived there. With these, and additional troops due to arrive from Kagoshima, Saigo's forces in Kyoto would soon number 10,000 strong. Furthermore, the Lord of Hiroshima, whose wealth surpassed that of even Choshu, had recently committed 1,000 troops to fight on the Satsuma-Choshu side, thus increasing Saigo's incentive to unleash his Imperial forces sooner than later. Nor was Choshu any less anxious for war to begin. Although its status of "Imperial Enemy" prohibited Choshu from participating in the anti-Bakufu conspiracy at court, its military was mobilized and waiting for Iwakura to arrange an Imperial decree for it to send an equally large number of troops to Kyoto to join their Satsuma allies.

"Satsuma and Choshu have waited long enough," Ryoma told Sasaki bluntly. In fact, three months had now passed since Saigo had promised to give Yodo time to petition the Shogun to abdicate. Certainly he had kept his word. And while Saigo had been understanding of the difficulties which Tosa encountered with the Icarus Affair—indeed Satsuma had even lent Sasaki a steamer to return to Tosa to settle the matter—Goto had come to Kyoto without the promised troops. "If Yodo and his conservative ministers can't understand that Tosa must act now or never, then to hell with them," Ryoma sneered, much to the discomfort of the commissioner of justice. "We have to be realistic, Sasaki," he said appeasingly. "Lord Iwakura has been after Saigo for months to begin military action against the Tokugawa. And now that Goto has arrived in Kyoto with only the petition," Ryoma concluded with a hopeless shrug, "Saigo just isn't going to wait much longer."

In fact, Saigo's sense of urgency intensified when he recently heard from Ernest Satow of what he had already known: France's intention to increase its support for the Bakufu. "...the French say that Japan must have a single concentrated government like all western countries," Saigo wrote to Okubo. "And above all, that it is desirable to destroy the two provinces of Choshu and Satsuma." Ryoma was indeed correct: Saigo the Great would not wait much longer.

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