Sundays, 8.00 – 8.45 p.m. from 3 January 2010
Born the youngest child of the merchant samurai Sakamoto family, Sakamoto Ryoma lost his mother at a young age, and learnt swordplay from his older sister, Otome. However, Ryoma and his siblings suffer humiliation everyday from the time they were little children. The Tosa domain has a strict class system and because the merchant samurai are of low birth, they are oppressed. Before long, Ryoma runs away from the Tosa domain. Heading to Edo, he sees the black ships, a major event that rocks Japan, with his very own eyes. He also meets Katsura Kogoro and studies with Yoshida Shoin and Chiba Sadakichi. When Ryoma returns to Tosa, he matures as he overcomes the hardships of life – the death of his father; imprisonment of Iwasaki Yataro; breakdown of his friendship with Takechi Hanbeita; and breakup with his first love, Hirai Kao. Takechi founds the Tosa Loyalist Party and assassinates Yoshida Toyo, a reformist who had been a key official in Tosa, while Ryoma decides to leave the domain and forge his own path in life. He heads to Edo and meets Katsu Kaishu, who is destined to be his mentor. Dreaming of building a navy for Japan, Ryoma gathers his friends and struggles to establish the Kobe Naval School. Then he meets Narasaki Ryo, who is to be his life partner, in a fateful encounter …
Fukuyama Masaharu as Sakamoto Ryoma
Born the second son of the Sakamoto family who were merchant samurai in the Tosa domain (present day Kochi Prefecture). Because the Sakamotos were originally merchants, Ryoma was in touch with the free and businesslike mercantile spirit as he grew up. He leaves the constrictive Tosa domain and learns sailing under Katsu Kaishu, a vassal of the shogun. Ryoma later establishes Kameyamashachu, a trading company and political organisation, and then Kaientai, a naval force, in Nagasaki. He mediates peace and concludes an alliance between the Satsuma and Choshu domains which had been at odds with each other. Furthermore, he orchestrates Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s restoration of imperial rule and becomes a key force in pushing through the Meiji Restoration. However, he is assassinated by someone at the young age of 33, with his dream to create “the world’s naval force” half accomplished.
Takeda Tetsuya as Katsu Kaishu
A vassal of the shogun and the administrator of the navy ships. He pursued Western studies and learnt to sail the seas at the Nagasaki Naval Training Centre. Although he is a vassal of the shogun, he feels that the Tokugawa shogunate has reached it limits and plans to build up a Japanese navy. Then he opens a private naval school in Kobe with Ryoma as the head of the school. He is also regarded with respect by the supporters of Satsuma and Choshu.
Maki Yoko as Narasaki Ryo
The daughter of a Kyoto doctor. Ryoma’s wife. When she meets Ryoma, she has lost her father and is living a life of hardship as the breadwinner for her family that includes her mother and four younger brothers and sisters. She rescues Ryoma, who had been attacked by shogunate officials at Teradaya, and is taken by the injured Ryoma to Satsuma. After that, they move from Nagasaki to Shimonoseki and she continues to support Ryoma from behind the scenes as he goes around Japan.
Kagawa Teruyuki as Iwasaki Yataro
A wandering samurai from the Tosa domain. He tolerates living in poverty and is studious. Discovered by Yoshida Toyo, who was prominent in the domain, he achieves remarkable success. He becomes the head of the Tosa Chamber of Commerce in Nagasaki and financially supports the activities of Ryoma’s Kaientai. After Ryoma’s death, he builds up a big trading company within one generation. He envies and is jealous of Ryoma and always thinks of him as his rival.
Hirosue Ryoko as Hirai Kao
The younger sister of the Tosa domain samurai Hirai Shujiro. Ryoma’s childhood friend. Shujiro has been making her train for married life to attract a good match but Kao is in love with Ryoma. When the movement advocating reverence for the Emperor and expulsion of foreigners rises in the Tosa domain, she becomes the attendant of Tsunehime of the Sanjo family and is sent to the imperial capital of Kyoto as her brother works for the Imperial Court. Because Shujiro is wary of Ryoma’s closeness with her, this causes a rift between them.
Miyasako Hiroyuki as Hirai Shujiro
A samurai from the Tosa domain. Kao’s older brother. He is Ryoma’s childhood friend but he detests the irresolute Ryoma. When Takechi Hanbeita founded the Tosa Loyalist Party, he became one of Takechi’s close aides. He sends his younger sister, Kao, to the imperial capital, Kyoto. Furthermore, he makes the Shorenin Palace write the prince’s command to reform the Tosa domain, demonstrating his political ability. As a result, however, he angers Yamauchi Yodo, the former feudal lord, and is ordered to commit ritual suicide. His ingenuity is better than his swordplay.
Omori Nao as Takechi Hanbeita
An honoured samurai of the Tosa domain. Ryoma’s childhood friend and a person who is good with sword and pen. He founds the Tosa Loyalist Party as the movement to expel foreigners gained momentum. Then he plots the assassination of Yoshida Toyo, who is prominent official in the domain, and for a time holds the power to move not just the Tosa domain but also the Imperial Court. However, because the Kobugattai (union of court and shogunate) coalition dominates the Imperial Court, he loses his standing and is ordered to commit ritual suicide. He is too serious and also inflexible but takes good care of people and is well-loved by everyone as an older brother.
Sato Takeru as Okada Izo
A samurai from the Tosa domain. He adores Takechi Hanbeita, and practices swordplay at Takechi’s martial arts training hall. When the movement advocating reverence for the Emperor and expulsion of foreigners flourishes in Kyoto, he is one of the assassins who slays people who are the main allies of the Tokugawa shogunate. For the sake of the Tosa domain and the country Japan – the great cause espoused by Takechi, he taints his hands with murders despite the torment it brings to him. Ryoma hires Izo as Katsu Kaishu’s bodyguard in order to put his skills in swordplay to good use but in the end, he is put to death in the Tosa domain.
Takahashi Katsumi as Saigo Takamori
A feudal retainer from the Satsuma domain. He was born as a samurai of the lower class but becomes an army commander who leads the Satsuma domain. He takes Ryoma and the others, who have nowhere to go when the Kobe Naval School is shut down, under his wing. Ryoma’s mediation brings the Satsuma domain together with their former enemy, the Choshu domain, and drives the shogunate into a corner.
Kaname Jun as Sawamura Sonojo
A wandering samurai from the Tosa domain. He joins Takechi Hanbeita’s Tosa Loyalist Party but he parts company with Takechi who is fixated with the Tosa domain and leaves the domain with Ryoma. At Ryoma’s invitation, he becomes a disciple of Katsu Kaishu and learns English, mathematics and navigation at the Kobe Naval School. He goes along with Ryoma and puts his English to good use to receive foreigners at Kameyamashachu and Kaientai in Nagasaki.
Kodama Kiyoshi as Sakamoto Hachihei
The third generation head of the Sakamoto family and Ryoma’s father. The Sakamoto family was originally a wealthy merchant family that owned Saitaniya. Its branch families became lower class samurai, and Hachihei was exceptionally particular about formalities as a samurai family. Although he hoped that Ryoma would become a fine samurai, he unintentionally spoilt Ryoma, who was his youngest child. When Ryoma sets off for Edo to train his swordsmanship, he makes letters on the conduct of training and writes ‘Father’ on them. He passes away without knowing of Ryoma’s activities in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate.
Kanjiya Shihori as Chiba Sana
The daughter of one of Edo’s distinguished families which owns a martial arts training hall. She possesses swordplay skills representative of her family’s training hall but is called ‘Onikomachi’ by men with strong fighting spirit and given the cold shoulder. She meets Ryoma, who has come to Edo to train his swordsmanship, and falls in love with him when she sees his earnestness with the sword.
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