On April 24 three farewell memorials for Shoichiro Toyoda were held across Japan. The former Toyota Motor president passed away on February 14, 2023 at the age of 97. As is the custom, a private funeral was held for close family friends soon after his passing while the farewell memorials were a chance for a larger circle of friends, acquaintances, and employees to say their goodbyes. As a marker of how beloved and respected Toyoda is, over 4,500 people attended including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
The three memorials were jointly held by all Toyota Motor Corporation divisions at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, Midland Square in Nagoya City, and the Toyota headquarters in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture.
Shoichiro Toyoda, who joined Toyota in 1952 and became president in 1981, ushered the company from a small Japanese firm to one of the world’s biggest multinationals. During his tenure Toyota built its famed Motomachi Plant as well as its first North American factory. He oversaw the development and launch of Lexus and the LS400, pushing the notion of a Japanese luxury car further than anyone thought possible.
At the ceremony, Representative Director Takeshi Uchiyamada, the man who oversaw development of the Prius, spoke first. He recalled a story in which Shoichiro Toyoda once chided him for running away from a conventional technology being developed in parallel with the Prius. Uchiyamada got emotional, saying, “It is very sad to think that I will no longer be able to receive direct guidance from Mr Shoichiro.”
Then Shoichiro’s son Akio, the recently retired president of Toyota, spoke on behalf of the family, saying “Above all, [Shoichiro Toyoda] was a man who put [Toyota founder] Kiichiro [Toyoda]’s dreams, aspirations, and heart into practice. We inherited Kiichiro’s desire to make Japan a prosperous country… I pledge to carry on Toyota’s manufacturing and development of individuals.”Afterwards guests had the opportunity to lay flowers and wreaths at the memorial.
There was a Toyota Century on display at the event. It was one of the many cars Shoichiro Toyoda had a hand in developing, and he rode to work every day in one. Toyoda was an engineer himself having earned a BS in mechanical engineering and having worked his way up through the ranks before becoming president.
A display beside the car included this endearing description: “When the [V12] engine for the previous generation was being developed, he seemed happiest when peering into the engine room and asking questions of the engineers.” Shoichiro Toyoda’s legacy and influence at not only Toyota, but across Japan’s industrial landscape, will not be soon forgotten.