Families of Edo's big names to tell all

Video screengrab of Edo art work.

JAPAN - The present-day descendants of four renowned movers and shakers of the late Edo period (1603-1867) are set to gather for a forum in Tokyo on Monday to share little-known stories that have been handed down in their families over generations.

The descendants will also discuss the spiritual legacies they hope to pass on to future generations. One of them says the group "wants to search together for the source of our ancestors' aspirations."

The five participants are Minako Koyama of Kanagawa Prefecture, 51, a great-great-grandchild of Katsu Kaishu; Noboru Sakamoto of Tokyo, a descendant of Sakamoto Ryoma's elder brother; Hirotsugu Okanoue of Yamanashi Prefecture, 72, a great- grandchild of Ryoma's elder sister Otome; Kei Konishi of Kanagawa Prefecture, a great-great-grandchild of John Manjiro; and Takamichi Enomoto of Tokyo, a great-grandchild of Enomoto Takeaki.

The "Katsu Kaishu Forum" will be held in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, also known as Katsu's birthplace.

Takayama works as a freelance writer while Konishi has served as an adjunct instructor of Japanese language at Sophia University after studying linguistics in the United States. Enomoto, a guest professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture, has written and published many books on Takeaki.

Once a mentor to Ryoma, Kaishu became a Tokugawa shogunate retainer along with Takeaki. He also travelled to the United States together with Manjiro. As there are no historical records suggesting that Ryoma and Manjiro met directly, it is highly unlikely that the four major figures were ever present in the same place. However, Kaishu is known to have maintained relationships with the other three.

The forum's organizer, an association established to commemorate the achievements of Katsu Kaishu, said, "The event offers a rare glimpse of the four greats from the perspective of their descendants 150 years after the end of the [Tokugawa] shogunate."

The forum will start at 9:30 a.m. at Sumida Ward Office's Sumida Riverside Hall.