Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本 龍馬 1835-1867) was born in Kochi, of Tosa han. His family in previous generations had acquired enough wealth as sake brewers to purchase the rank of merchant-samurai, which was the lowest rank of samurai. After being bullied at school, his olders sister enrolled him in fencing school. By the time he reached adulthood he was a master swordsman. Once the United States forced Japan to open its borders samurai throughout the country were up in arms, but Ryoma Sakamoto had a better grasp of the superiority of the Western technology and spent years preparing Japan for the Restoration. He was crucial in the creation of a modern navy. For hundreds of years Japan had been under isolationist rule so a navy was created from scratch. Eventually, he secured funds for his navy from any nationalist han. Next, Ryoma negotiated a secret alliance between Choshu domain and Satsuma domain. Satsuma and Choshu historically had been absolute enemies.
Ryoma officially was a lowly samurai, but he managed to make ties with some of the most influential daimyo and samurai. Also, he developed trade with foreigners in order to obtain modern weapons and naval technology.
Ryoma was a visionary who envisioned a Japan without any more feudal frappings. He read about and was inspired by the example of the United States where "all men are created equal." He realized that in order to compete with a industrial, technological outside world Japanese people must be used according to their ability. After centuries of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the hereditary leaders and samurai had grown increasingly impotent.
Not long before the Meiji Restoration transpired, Ryoma Sakamoto was killed by the Shinsengumi.
In November 15, 2003, the Kochi Airport was renamed to the Kochi Ryoma Airport in honor of this man.