Ralph Honda


Name Ralph C. Honda
Born October 30 1907
Died May 9 2004
Birth Location Honolulu, HI
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Ralph Honda (1907-2004) was a community leader in Hawai'i who was a founding member of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation. Throughout his life, Honda worked to improve relations between Japan and the United States.

Background

Ralph Chikato Honda was born in Honolulu on October 30, 1907, to Japanese immigrants Hiro and Mitsu Honda. In 1927, he graduated from St. Louis College and he was selected by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission to study Buddhism in Japan on a scholarship. When he returned to the Islands three years later, he became the director of the Young Men's Buddhist Association.

Community Activism

Throughout his life, Honda was committed to causes to improve the welfare of individuals. During the Great Depression he worked with the Work Project Administration (WRA) and Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) to help unemployed Hawai'i residents find a job. He also was employed at Castle & Cooke in public relations as the first Nisei to work in that department. In 1938, Honda became a salesman for Office Appliance Co., and a year later became the company president, growing the business into a multi-million-dollar organization. Honda was also active during World War II, fighting for the right to keep Buddhist temples open so Japanese families could have funeral services. Honda played an important role in encouraging the U.S. government to acknowledge Buddhism as a legitimate religion. For decades, Honda helped to spread knowledge of Buddhism and spearheaded the drive to place the book, The Teaching of the Buddha in hotels and with various organizations. Honda was also the president of the Society to Promote Buddhism in Hawaii and for his efforts, the Honpa Hongwanji named him a Living Treasure of Hawaii in 1997.[1]

Founding of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship

In 1959, Honda and members of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce (HJCC) decided to honor Crown Prince Akihito and his new bride with a scholarship that would encourage goodwill between Japan and the United States through academic exchanges of students. As vice-president of the HJCC, Honda led efforts to make the scholarship a reality and was one of sixteen members of the founding board of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship that included Masayuki Adachi, Ambassador John Allison, Henry Damon Jr., Y. Baron Goto, Raymond Inafuku, Kazuo Ishii, Takeo Isoshima, Masato Kamisato, Japanese Consul General Tamio Kora, Frank Midkiff, James Nishi, John Nishimoto, Siegfried Ramier, Maureen Schaefer, and William Tsuji.[2] After consulting with HJCC president Masayuki Adachi and Shunzo Koizumi, Akihito's personal tutor, Honda received approval from Akihito and the imperial household. Soon after Akihito presented University of Hawai'i President Lawrence Snyder with the scholarship's first installment check that reflected HJCC's fundraising efforts. The scholarship was formally established in 1959 and two years later, Akihito contributed $1,000 to the scholarship. The foundation soon had other donors including Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and the Japan-Hawaii Economic Council. Honda continued to be active in the scholarship for much of his life explaining, "unlike most scholarships where they give money and then (say) sayonara, we constantly keep in touch with (our awardees)."[3] Still today, the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship provides scholarships to graduate students in Japan for study at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and an American graduate student at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa for study in Japan.

Other Accomplishments

Honda was also a founding member of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, was a president and director of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and a president and director of Kuakini Hospital. In 1985, Honda received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan. Honda passed away at the age of 96 and was preceded in death by his wife. Ellen Masako Nakao. He was survived by his daughters, Madge Takemori, Peggie Tsukimura, and Vivian Umaki; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.[4]

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation website: http://cpasfoundation.org/.

Footnotes

  1. Kevin Kawamoto, "Ralph C. Honda," Hawaii Herald, October 16, 2009, 17; Scott C. Stone, Living Treasures of Hawai'i: 25th Anniversary of the Selections of Outstanding Persons as Honored by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i (Honolulu: Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i, 2000), 130.
  2. Bernadette Kagawa, "The Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship," Hawaii Herald, July 8, 1994, A-20.
  3. Kagawa, A-21.
  4. Peter Boylan, "Community Leader Ralph Honda Dead at 96," Honolulu Advertiser, May 18, 2004, accessed on April 5, 2016 at http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/May/18/ln/ln45a.html.