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Itagaki, not Goto, the first Japanese to buy from Louis Vuitton in 1883

The Louis Vuitton trunk purchased by Itagaki Taisuke (Photo courtesy of the Kochi Liberty and People's Rights Museum)
Itagaki Taisuke

The first Japanese person to have ever bought a bag from French luxury brand Louis Vuitton may not be the person who was previously thought to be the first buyer, it has emerged.

    Until now, the answer to who had made the first purchase from Louis Vuitton was Goto Shojiro, a pivotal Meiji government statesman and former samurai from the Tosa Domain (present-day Kochi Prefecture). But it has now been learned that another Meiji statesman beat Goto by nearly three weeks -- fellow Freedom and People's Rights Movement leader and Tosa-native Itagaki Taisuke.

    Goto Shojiro

    Goto and Itagaki embarked together from Yokohama on a mail boat bound for France in 1882. They spent time in Paris, London and other European cities, and returned to Japan in 1883.

    According to Go Kumon, deputy director of "Itagaki no Kai," (the Itagaki Society), the first president of Louis Vuitton Japan, Kyojiro Hata, introduces Goto's customer card and photo in his book. From there, the image of Goto as Louis Vuitton's "first Japanese customer" has spread.

    Last year, however, Kumon examined the purchase records after being inspired by a Louis Vuitton exhibition held in Tokyo. He found that a customer named "Itagaki," written in the roman alphabet, had purchased a trunk with the serial number 7720 at a store in Paris on Jan. 9, 1883. The serial number was a match for a trunk in the possession of one of Itagaki's descendants.

    It was on Jan. 30 of the same year, some three weeks later, that Goto made his purchase of two trunks from the French brand, according to the purchase records. However, those trunks have not been confirmed.

    The tag on the Louis Vuitton trunk purchased by Itagaki Taisuke (Photo courtesy of the Kochi Liberty and People's Rights Museum)

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