Tokyo’s Hard-to-get Handcrafted Silver Jewellery That Has Reached Cult Status

Like any search for a holy grail, acquiring a piece of Goro’s handcrafted silver jewellery is shrouded in mystique: Even the most dedicated seeker may end up empty-handed. There’s only a single store, tucked inside a creamsicle-coloured building in the Harajuku district. Getting in requires savvy and serendipity, and sometimes waiting in an eight-hour-long lineup.

The origin story goes like this: the late Goro Takahashi first learned leather carving as a teenager from American soldiers stationed in Tokyo during the 1950s. Later on, this inspired Takahashi to travel to the U.S., where he immersed himself in Native American cultures, and picked up silver-engraving skills, including traditional Navajo techniques. He formed a lasting friendship with the Lakota people of South Dakota, who named him Yellow Eagle.

The experience defined his art, and a sacred feather became his signature motif. Takahashi, who opened his store in 1972, was credited with igniting Japan’s relentless demand for Native American jewellery. He crafted just a few pieces a day, so only a small number of customers would be allowed into his shop to buy any. As Harajuku’s streetwear scene took off in the ’80s, Goro’s cult status grew. So did the lines outside.

August 28, 2019
A black and white photo of hopeful shoppers waiting in line to enter the jewellery store

Takahashi died in 2013, but his legacy lives on in the tiny, family-run shop. The coveted pendants, rings and bracelets remain hard to get, though unofficial advice on how to obtain a piece spreads through word of mouth: Arrive before 10 a.m.; join the queue for a raffle to enter the store; wait some more; hope that you luck out.

The staff reputedly won’t sell anything that doesn’t suit a buyer. “Most people want it only because it’s hard to get,” says Montreal-based creative consultant and style blogger Marcus Troy, who has collected 25 Goro’s pieces over a decade. But true fans feel more meaning: The jewellery is said to carry the spirit of Goro. “One of [Takahashi’s] daughters told me he loved it when people outside Japan had his pieces,” says Troy, “because he felt like he was travelling with them.”
 

A Brief History of Goro’s

Mid-1800s Atsidi Sani, said to be the first Navajo silversmith, learns his art from a Mexican craftsman; generations later, the same tradition inspires Goro Takahashi.

1960s Takahashi travels to the U.S., where he befriends Native American tribes, and is honoured in a sacred naming ceremony.

1970s Takahashi creates his sacred eagle feather design, inspired by his desire to carry the symbol of bravery – usually reserved for ceremony – at all times.
 

Go Get It Prepare to queue outside this distinctive building, minutes from the shopping hub of Omotesando Hills. Goro’s Bldg. 2F, 4-29-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo

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