Koichi Iida


Name Koichi Iida
Born May 20 1888
Died November 8 1973
Birth Location Honolulu, HI
Generational Identifier

Issei

Hawai'i businessman who chaired the S. M. Iida stores in Honolulu and the former president of Central Pacific Bank.

Background and Business Experience

Iida's father, Matsukichi Iida, was a ceramics trader from Ōsaka who arrived in the Islands in 1895. He opened a shop known as Iida Suisando first on Maunakea street then Smith street in downtown Honolulu before it was destroyed in the 1900 Chinatown fire.[1] Although Matsukichi lost everything in the fire, he began selling food to people displaced by the event and was able to raise enough money to rebuild his business. Koichi Iida was Matsukichi's only son and he had been left behind in Ōsaka after his birth in 1888. However, once Iida graduated from an Ōsaka commercial school, he studied English in Los Angeles for five years before joining his father in Hawai'i. Iida worked with his father in their new store located at Nu'uanu and Beretania streets and the business prospered. Iida became active in the business community in Hawai'i and in 1918 he helped to found the Honolulu Japanese Traders Union for retailers as the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce only allowed wholesale and import companies. He became president ten years later and helped to eliminate credit sales in lieu of cash to help Japanese merchants.

In 1925, Iida became president of the family's corporation and in 1931 his father returned to Japan, leaving the business in the care of Iida. Iida specialized in selling Japanese kitchenware, toys, ceramics, art, Girl's and Boy's days dolls, Buddhist objects, judō and kendō uniforms, and other specialty products. Eventually the Honolulu Japanese Traders Union merged with the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce and in 1940 members elected Iida as president.

World War II and Postwar Experience

Due to his high profile role in the community as a business leader, during World War II, authorities incarcerated Iida first at Sand Island; then Fort Missoula, Montana; followed by Camp Livingston, Louisiana; before finally ending up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As his sons, Richard and Robert were too young to run the family business, Tsuyoshi Nishimoto who was the husband of his daughter Yoshiko took over during a particularly difficult period as Iida’s personal and business assets were frozen due to his status as an enemy alien.[2] Iida's wife also passed away while he was incarcerated and Nishimoto also had the responsibility of caring for his wife's four sisters, Chiyo, Takeko, Jane, and Laura.

Iida was finally able to return to Hawai'i in November 1945 and joined in the debate whether to revive the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce that had been closed during World War II. Iida and his colleagues Daizo Sumida, and Shuichi Fukunaga argued successfully about restarting the organization and in 1948, members elected Iida chamber president. Iida was also the first president of Central Pacific Bank, the first postwar Japanese American bank that Hawai'i's Japanese started after the war to break the financial monopoly of white-owned banks in the Islands. Iida was president from 1954 to 1960 and was then appointed chairman of the board, a position that he held for a decade. He also became a director of National Mortgage and Finance Co., Suisando Co., and Daiwa Securities.

In 1959, Iida opened his store, Iida's, in Ala Moana Center and was one of the first fifty original tenants that included other Japanese stores such as Sato Clothiers, Hoteiya, and Shirokiya. Iida's successfully operated their business for many years, attracting both locals and tourists to their store. However, declining sales and increasing rent resulted in the closure of the Ala Moana store in June 2005 and Iida's soon focused online sales and operating out of a blue warehouse on the corner of Kona and Pensacola streets near Ala Moana Center.

Due to Iida's many contributions to the Japanese community in the Islands, the Japanese government awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Rays in 1965. Iida retired from the board of Central Pacific Bank in 1970 and in 1973 passed away in Honolulu.

For More Information

Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. "虹 の 橋": 日工商 70年史 = "The Rainbow": A History of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (Honolulu: Nihonjin Shōkō Kaigisho, 1970), 92.

Iida's Store website: http://www.iidashawaii.com/

"Koichi Iida, Dies at 85," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10 November 1973, B-5.

Footnotes

  1. Kei Suzuki, "Koichi Iida," Hawai'i Herald, October 5, 2007, C-3.
  2. Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce. "虹 の 橋": 日工商 70年史 = "The Rainbow": A History of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (Honolulu: Nihonjin Shōkō Kaigisho, 1970), 93.