The "Joy of Manufacturing" / 1936

The "Joy of Manufacturing" / 1936

In April 1928, he completed his apprenticeship and opened a branch of Art Shokai in Hamamatsu, the only one of Sakakibara’s trainees who was granted this degree of independence. Mr. Honda was 21 years old and from this moment he devoted himself to making the most of his youth and skill. He was not just admired for his ability to repair machines, but gave free rein to his talent as an inventor, later earning the title "the Edison of Hamamatsu" and starting to do all kinds of work that went far beyond the narrow bounds of a repair workshop.

A photograph dating from about 1935 shows the Hamamatsu works and Art Shokai Hamamatsu Branch Fire Engine, fitted with a heavy-duty water pump. The company also made dump trucks, and converted buses so that they could carry larger numbers of passengers. At the right of the photograph there is a lift-type automobile repair stand, another of Honda’s inventions. Mr. Honda had said that "A human being should not have to do his work crawling around underneath a car" and made the stand himself. The low vehicle at the left of the photo is the "Hamamatsu" racing car and the figure to its right, wearing sun glasses and with a small mustache, is Mr. Honda.


The Hamamatsu branch of Art Shokai around 1935. The car on the left is "The Hamamatsu" and standing beside it with sunglasses is Mr. Honda. Fifteenth from the left is his younger brother, Benjiro Honda. Visible on the far right is a lifting-type automobile repair stand, which was rare then. This was another of Honda’s inventions.

By this time the staff of the Hamamatsu Branch, only one person when it was founded, had grown to more than thirty. Honda’s wife Sachi, whom he had just married in October of that year, joined in running the business, making meals for the live-in staff as well as helping with the accounts.

On June 7, 1936, Soichiro Honda had an accident at the wheel of the "Hamamatsu" in the opening race at the Tamagawa Speedway, Japan’s first racetrack, when he could not avoid hitting another car that was making its way back onto the track after a pit stop. Mr. Honda’s car did a roll and he was thrown clear: He was not seriously hurt but his younger brother and mechanic Benjiro was badly injured, fracturing his spine. Undaunted, Mr. Honda took part in just one more race in October of the same year.

According to Mr. Honda, "When my wife cried and begged me to stop I had to give it up," but she said that the true story was slightly different: "Did he stop because of something I said? I think it was a lecture from his father that made up his mind!"

Times were changing as Japan entered the dark, militaristic chapter of its history. War with China broke out in 1937. During the so-called "national emergency," pastimes like racing were out of the question, and motor sports died out in Japan for a time.

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