The Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World has company. You won’t find him climbing the world’s tallest mountain, or wrestling crocodiles in the Nile. He resides in the corner of the Tam library’s back room, perched behind an awkwardly tall desk, making only his head visible to the seated students inhabiting the library. Most assume Hans Goto has spent decades in the library. This assumption, however, could not be further from the truth.
Goto’s story begins before his birth. His family was forced into Japanese internment camps during World War II, where his older sister was born.
“I came along after the camp,” Goto said. “I won’t tell you how long after,” he continued, flashing his signature friendly grin. Although both his parents were Japanese immigrants, Goto spent his entire childhood in Los Angeles. While growing up, he didn’t think his Japanese heritage would define his adult life and professional career, until he traveled to Japan in 1973 to study the ancient martial art of aikido.
“I was fascinated with the art of aikido during my teenage years,” Goto said. “I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the aikido club at UC Santa Cruz from 1969-72, but this was minimal exposure, and I was hungry for more.”
Following his 1972 graduation, Goto began to work to save money to travel to Japan and be immersed in the culture, specifically aikido. He worked tirelessly at two jobs in order to pay for a plane ticket to Tokyo. Once he arrived, he enrolled in a three-month intensive aikido course with a very respected teacher.
“I was introduced to the class by a close friend, he warned me of the rigors of an advanced aikido class, but I was so determined I couldn’t be deterred,” Goto said. While the next three months were arduous, they were also the most formative of his life. When the course was finished, Goto’s passion for Aikido was just beginning.
“All the other members of the class left, including my friend,” he said. “I was granted live-in student status by the teacher, who had taken a liking to me during the normal course. Little did I know that the title of live-in student described more of a position of a homeless slave,” Goto said. Over the following months, he adopted the aikido lifestyle, becoming the right hand man of his instructor. “It was mentally and physically grueling, but such a valuable experience. It shaped me and still has lasting effects on how I view the world and interact with others today,” Goto said.
Goto returned to America a new man, wise beyond his years. Becoming the multi faceted inspiration he is today stems from a long list of unique endeavors the aikido connoisseur experienced before settling in Southern Marin. As he started the new chapter in his life, he worked as a jeweler at the famous Gump’s Jewelry and Home Decor on Post Street during what he liked to call, the “Golden Age of San Francisco.”
“If you were walking down the street holding that pink Gump’s bag, you were somebody, and everyone knew it,” said Carol Craft, the Tam budget secretary and long-time friend of Goto. Goto concurred, and continued to explain how he navigated the world of jewels. Like every other part of life he experienced, Goto was able to take away valuable lessons from his tenure in retail,
“I was taught how to trade and work as a merchant as well as a salesman while at Gump’s, which is a very real world skill,” he said. “I also had to learn how to gift wrap without using any tape!” Goto’s career in education commenced following his tenure at Gump’s. He has served the high schoolers of Marin County for 20 years, culminating in his time in the Tam library.
“I’ve been at Tam for six years,” Goto said. “I took over in the library and fell in love with the atmosphere and the students.”
Education is the one field in which Goto has led multiple careers, although he held a much different position at Drake High School prior to Tam.
“I worked in food service at Drake, serving those meals that everyone loves so much,” he said with a wink. “I would always present ideas for exciting new nutritional dishes to the board, but they would turn them down every time. They claimed the food couldn’t be served due to uncertain calorie count.” Efforts like this are a testament to Goto’s passion he has for his job and unwavering care for his students and colleagues.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever worked with anyone like Hans,” Craft said. “His experiences have shaped him into the kind, compassionate man he is today. He’s wise beyond his years.” Craft paused and grinned , then added, “And that’s a lot of years.”
Goto’s ability to connect with every demographic of Tam’s unique student body is a product of his own diverse professional history.
“I’ve been through so much and done so many different things, I believe this allows me to be more empathetic to all students and situations,” he said. This is a valuable trait according to Social Studies teacher Nathan Bernstein.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Goto both as a co-worker and as a person,” Bernstein said. “As a young teacher, I try to emulate the knowledge and teachings of those who have more experience than myself, and who better to look up to than Goto?”
The fall semester of the 2017-18 school year will be Goto’s last. He embarks on a retirement he promises will be, in contrast to his adult life, relaxing and predictable. Although his time directly impacting students will end, many Tam students have formed a strong bond with Goto that will stick with them for the duration of their academic lives.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the library over the last few years, and Goto and I have become close,” Senior Amal Hayat said.
“He’s a special individual in that he gives so much without expecting anything in return.”
As he looks back on his time at Tam, Goto is glad he has been able to positively influence students through his authentic life experience.
“I’ve gone through trials and tribulations in life just like everyone else,” Goto said with a smile. “Being surrounded by students has been incredibly rewarding for me. I’m just happy I could help.”