The Tokugawa shogunate had fallen. A new era was dawning, not in small part thanks to Sakamoto Ryoma. But when one induces a monumental turn in history, one tends to make enemies. Though the pro-loyalists had succeeded in removing power from the shogunate, Tokugawa loyalist remained operative in Japan. On December 10, 1867, a group of assassins made their way to Omiya Inn where Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro were staying. Met at the door by Ryoma’s ex-sumo wrestler bodyguard, the assassin presented himself as an ordinary guest who wished to see the famed swordsman. When the bodyguard turned to see if his master was accepting guests, the assassin cut him down and the rest of his compatriots advanced on the upper floor where Ryoma was staying. Ryoma, hearing the noise but thinking little of it, was caught off guard. The room erupted into chaos. Lamps were overturned and the room was reduced to darkness. Both Ryoma and Nakaoka suffered fatal wounds from the altercations. Ryoma died that night, and Nakaoka followed two days later. The Shinsengumi, Tokugawa’s police force in the Gion district, were later implicated in the crime, and their leader, Kondo Isami was executed for it. An ex-member of another Tokugawa force, the Kyoto Mimawarigumi later confessed to the assassination. To this day, historians are unable to determine conclusively who, exactly, was responsible for Ryoma’s death.
The original Omiya Inn, the site of Ryoma’s assassination no longer exists. Its former location is marked by a memorial outside of a convenience store on Kawaramachi Dori, in downtown Kyoto.
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