Who are Sakamoto Ryoma and Oda Nobunaga?

Via Marginal Revolution, I’ve just read the list of history’s 100 most influential people, according to a program by Japan’s NTV. I’m ashamed to say I only recognized three of the top 10. I followed the link to an earlier list, of the favorite historical figures of the Japanese. Another three out of the top ten for me, I’m afraid.

I had to find out who Sakamoto Ryoma and Oda Nobunaga, who figured in the top three of both lists. Clearly I need to read a good history of Japan. I’m curious what the results would be from other countries.

When the BBC did a similar exercise to identify Great Britons, Winston Churchill, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Princess Diana finished 1, 2, 3. When the Discovery Channel did the same thing with Americans, the honors were taken by Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. A bunch of other national editions have also been completed, which are well chronicled by Wikipedia. I haven’t, however, found similar global-spanning surveys like the ones in Japan.

4 thoughts on “Who are Sakamoto Ryoma and Oda Nobunaga?

  1. jaywalker

    The Japanese unification is similar to the Second Roman Civil War:

    Ruthless Oda Nobunaga as Japan’s Caesar was assassinated by Japan’s Brutus Akechi Mitsuhide (curiously no. 98 on the list). Japan’s Mark Anthony Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a brilliant soldier who killed Nobunaga’s killers and united Japan but was unable to become shogun himself due to his low rank. He died at home having sent his soldiers on a disastrous Korea campaign. Japan’s Augustus Ieyasu Tokugawa, the waiting diplomat, defeated his Western opponents (the losers of the Korea expedition) at Sekigahara 1600 (a large part of the Western army switched sides during the battle!) and started the dynasty.

    Their approaches are thus illustrated:
    Nobunaga: “If a bird doesn’t sing, kill it.”
    Hideyoshi: “If a bird doesn’t sing, I’ll make it sing.”
    Tokugawa: “If a bird doesn’t sing, I’ll wait until it sings.”

    Stephen Turnbull: The Samurai – a military history. (Anything by Turnbull is worth a read.)
    Eiji Yoshikawa: Taiko – an Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan (good story but long-winded at 940 pages)

  2. David Derrick

    Is this an “Abe list”, reflecting a desire for strong leadership as Shinzo Abe’s popularity drains away?

  3. Pingback: Japan’s heroes (for now) « The Toynbee convector

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