Samurai #3: Soichiro Honda

(1 Vote)

Article by Anthony Al-Jamie (continued)

SOICHIRO Honda was born in Shizuoka, Japan. His father, a blacksmith, owned a bicycle repair shop and Honda spent his early childhood helping him fix bikes. As a child, he was fascinated by airplanes and it is said that after he viewed an airplane demonstration by pilot Art Smith, Honda’s love for machinery and invention was instilled in him forever.

With little formal education, Honda left home at 15 and began working in Tokyo as an apprentice mechanic for the automobile garage Art Shokai. When he turned 21, he opened a branch of Art Shokai in Hamamatsu City. But following a series of technical failures, he enrolled as a part-time student at Hamamatsu Industrial Institute, now the Faculty of Engineering at Shizuoka University. He studied metallurgy for two years and began to achieve success in manufacturing trials of piston rings. In 1939, he handed over the reins of the Art Shokai Hamamatsu Branch to his staff and started running his own company, Tokai Seiki, which produced piston rings for Toyota Motor Company. As Honda was incorrectly diagnosed as color blind, he was not required to serve in the military. In 1944 during WWII, his company’s Yamashita Plant was destroyed by a B-29 bomber attack and the following year his Iwata plant collapsed in the January 13, 1945 Nankai Earthquake. After the war, Honda sold what remained of his company to Toyota. He used the modest proceeds to start the Honda Technical Research Institute in late 1946. By 1948 he was producing motorcycles as the president of Honda Motor Company.

Over the next 25 years, Honda remained as president. He forged a partnership with Takeo Fujisawa, a shrewd businessman who ran the business side of the operations. Honda kept 100% creative control over the motorcycles he produced. Instead of focusing on the mass production of motorcycles for police and military use, Honda insisted on creating motorcycles for the entire family. He began producing small 50cc motorcycles and his partner Kawashima, in collaboration with Grey Advertising, launched the promotional campaign, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda.” The ads depicted housewives, a parent and a child, and young couples riding Honda 50s. This spawned the Honda boom. Honda openly voiced his admiration for American business practices and its way of life. Through his engineering miracles, young boys and their fathers in the U.S. and throughout the world bonded while riding Hondas. The Honda Motor Company continued to grow, outselling the Britishmade Triumph and the U.S.-made Harley Davidson in their respective home markets. Honda eventually grew into one of Japan’s largest automobile manufacturers and today produces amongst other things automobiles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, power generators, boat engines and race-car engines. Its latest innovation is the HondaJet, which would certainly put a smile on the faces of Soichiro Honda and Art Smith. tj

Soichiro Honda was selected as Samurai #3 based on:
»»his phenomenal engineering skills
»»his creative innovations
»»his unsurpassed insight into the dreams and wishes of his customers even in foreign markets
»»his unyielding determination to overcome adversity and succeed in a global marketplace

田宗一郎は静岡県に生まれた。鍛冶 職人だった父は自転車修理店を開業 し、本田は幼少のころから父の仕事 を手伝っていた。本田少年が飛行機に夢中に なったのは、アート・スミスの曲技飛行を見 てからだとされている。以後、本田は機械に 興味を持ち、発明の精神が彼の心に根付くこ とになる。

高等小学校卒業後、15 歳で東京の自動車修 理工場アート商会に丁稚奉公に出る。21 歳 でアート商会ののれん分けの形で浜松市に支 店を設立した。いくつかの技術的問題に直面 した本田は、浜松高等工業学校(現:静岡大 学工学部)の聴講生となって2 年ほど金属 工学を学び、ピストンリングの試作に成功し た。1939 年、アート商会浜松支店を従業員 に譲渡し、東海精機重工業の社長に就任した。 同社はトヨタ向けにピストンリングを製造し ていた。本田は徴兵検査で色覚異常と誤診さ れたため兵役は免れた。第二次世界大戦中の 1944 年、東海精機重工業山下工場もB 29 爆 撃機による攻撃で破壊された。さらに1945 年1 月13 日の南海大地震で同社磐田工場も 倒壊した。戦後、本田は東海精機重工業の保 有株を豊田自動織機に売却し、1946 年に本 田技術研究所を設立した。1948 年には本田 技研工業株式会社代表取締役となり、オート バイ製造に取り組んだ。

その後の25 年間、本田は社長として、経営 面を担当したらつ腕の藤沢武夫と共に同社を 率いた。本田はオートバイについて全面的に 支配権を握り、警察や軍隊向けのオートバイ の大量生産ではなく、家庭向けオートバイの 創出を主張し、50cc の小型オートバイの製造 を始めた。アメリカン・ホンダ支配人の川島は、 大手広告会社グレイ社と組んで、「素晴らしい 人々、ホンダに乗る」をキャッチコピーとす る広告キャンペーンを展開した。この広告に は、主婦や親子、若いカップルがさまざまな 目的でスーパーカブに乗る姿が描かれ、ホン ダのオートバイ・ブームが到来した。本田は アメリカの商慣行やライフスタイルを率直に
賞賛した。本田の画期的技術により、アメリ カそして世界で、ホンダのオートバイを通じ て父と子の絆が深まった。ホンダは成長を続 け、英国ではトライアンフ、アメリカではハー レーダビッドソンの売り上げを上回った。日 本でも次第に成長して国内有数の自動車メー カーとなり、現在は芝刈り機、発電機、船の エンジン、レーシングカーのエンジンなども 製造している。最近開発されたホンダジェッ トには、本田宗一郎とアート・スミスも思わ ず微笑んでいることだろう。tj

本田宗一郎を侍 ナンバー3 に選んだ理由:
»»外国市場においても顧客の夢や望みを見抜 く鋭い洞察力
»»世界市場において逆境を克服し成功すると いう揺るぎない決意

– Photo courtesy of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.


Samurai #7: Ichiro Suzuki
Samurai #6: Seiji Ozawa

Samurai #5: Osamu Tezuka

Samurai #4: Kisho Kurokawa
Samurai #3: Soichiro Honda

Samurai #2: Akira Kurosawa

Samurai #1: Akio Morita

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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