- Jake Van Parys
The Legend of Goros, Part 1: History and In-Person Experiences
History: Goro Takahashi
Goro Takahashi always had an interest in Native American communities and heritage growing up as a kid. The initial curiosity and empathy for the communities would spur Goro to seek out Native American culture later on in life, in search for immersion and a deeper understanding. While attending summer camp in Junior High school, Goro befriended an American soldier who was stationed in Japan. It was this individual who introduced Goro to the art of leather crafting and gifted him a set of leather crafting tools. This would spark the journey of Goro and his timeless creations.
After graduating schooling at the age of 16, Goro went directly into the leather crafting business. Out of his workshop in Aoyama, Goro would produce leather bags and belts, along with jackets, trousers, tables, and sofas. Inspired by the American soldier, Goro ventured out to Flagstaff, Arizona and met a silversmith named Jed who immediately recognized his talent and craftsmanship. In exchange for Goro’s leather goods, Jed taught him silversmithing. Their relationship was simply rooted in bartering and mutual respect for each other’s craftsmanship and dedication.
Goro’s adventures in the United States would eventually lead him to New Mexico, where he vividly recalls admiring Eagle feathers that were on display in the shops. He asked to purchase one of the feathers, but the shopkeeper refused, citing the cultural significance and symbolic importance of the feathers. Not just anyone can own them. So instead of haggling over a price, Goro bartered for the feathers by offering a silver ring he had crafted prior. Little did he know that this interaction would be the introduction to an intimate relationship with the Lakota Tribe, which would eventually lead to a life changing experience. Goro would bring all of these experiences back with him to Japan, as he opened up his own shop to eventually sell these products. This was the birth of his stamp in Harajuku history.
Goro’s Harajuku is a Native American inspired Japanese jewelry brand whose name is synonymous with craftsmanship, quality, and mystery. Without any social media presence, nor digital storefront, Goro’s is sold exclusively out of a single location in Harajuku, Tokyo. As a result, Goro’s draws hundreds of customers daily, queuing up for a chance to purchase the limited stock for the day. In this age of ever-increasing digitization, Goro’s serves as a reminder of our humanity. Goro’s is a representation of not only outstanding hand craftsmanship, but also their commitment to genuine and authentic human connection. It isn’t about clout, nor money - What’s important is the bond between people and their unique life story.
The Lakota Tribe played a significant role in Goro Takahashi’s life journey. His interaction with the shopkeeper in New Mexico led to his participation in the sacred rites of the naming ceremony within the tribe. The naming ceremony of the Lakota People is one of utmost reverence - a sacred rite where a spiritual leader bestows one with a name specific to one’s characteristics. The naming ritual is of profound importance and is very rarely extended to non-Natives in the community. Goro Takahashi would be one of the rare few to be invited to take part in this ritual and at the age of 40, would become the first officially sanctioned Japanese Lakotan.
A determined Goro sat down in the circle, surrounded by intense heat and engulfed in a powerful scent of sage leaves. The combination overwhelmed his senses to the point he almost fainted, but he remained steadfast throughout the ceremony. In this extreme state of altered consciousness, Goro experienced visions of an eagle perching proudly on a rock. Its talons gripped the rock firmly. Its neck feathers blew in the wind. Its eyes focused intensely on Goro. This vivid imagery would engrain itself into his psyche and thus form the visual basis of the jewelry revered today.
To commemorate the ending of the ceremony, Goro was given a pipe. Upon puffing it, he had a novel experience, in which he could visualize the smoke he had inhaled. He described it as wind blowing through his body. Following the ritual, he was invited to take part in the Sun Dance, as the first non-Lakotan ever to be granted entry. At the beginning of the ceremony, Goro would enter as Goro Takahashi; but at the conclusion of the ceremony, Goro would emerge with another name: Yellow Eagle.
The origin story of Goro’s is pivotal in understanding the ethos of the brand. It is the origin story that would lay the philosophical and cultural foundation of the brand and cement Goro’s as one of Japan’s most enigmatic brands. It is the origin story that weaves traditional themes of pilgrimage, ceremony, bartering, and spirituality onto a modern Harajuku cityscape. It is the origin story that leaves listeners wide-eyed and inspired to seek out The Legend of Harajuku Goro’s.
In-Person Experiences: Pilgrimage
My own journey began on a chilly, rainy morning around 8:00am Japan time, in October of 2017. It was my first time embarking on this trip. I stood there in the elements, clutching my packable umbrella against the windy downpour. I was not at all prepared for the inclement weather. I remember angling the flimsy umbrella to match the trajectory of the rainfall, but it was an uphill battle. My efforts were in vain, as my sneakers were completely soaked through, every fiber saturated from the frigid Tokyo rainfall. I watched hundreds of people line the street, stretching all the way down the busy Harajuku road and wrapping around the block. There had to be at least a couple hundred more, all as eager as I was. I observed the crowd and very quickly realized I was an outsider. An outsider in the sense of being a foreigner in Japan, but also an outsider in the sense that I was a complete Goro’s novice, a first-timer, in a sea of experienced veterans. I had no idea what I was doing.