Memories of Ishiro Honda
by Kimi Honda (wife of Ishiro Honda)
All I want to say to him is “Thank you for a job well done”.

If I have to select one work from all his films as my favorite, it would be his first, “The Blue Pearl”. After having lost eight precious years of his youth to the war, he came home and felt the gap and loss of time. At this time Toho approached him to join the company, but only at the main office branch to do desk work. So he declined, making a firm promise to himself saying “I do not care even if I have nothing to eat. I will never leave the film studio ever again!” This was a film written and made by him after much hard work and studying on his own in preparation for this day to come.

On the day of its premiere, the very first person that ran to him saying “Congrats, Ino-san!” was Kajiro Yamamoto; I can still remember the look on his face as if it was just yesterday.  (Akira Kurosawa, Senkichi Taniguchi and Ishiro Honda were known as the “The Three Crows” of director Kajiro Yamamoto’s disciples)

Since then, many films were made, family dramas, teen films, and so on.  He was always fully in the moment and enjoyed each minute.

He then received an offer to work on a project about the suicide squad. Upon reading volumes of reference material, including wills written by lost soldiers and thinking about a variety of things while cooped up in his study, he came to the conclusion that he was just not capable of writing about this topic yet, and he declined the offer. I believe the mental scarring from eight years of being in the war must have been deeper than one can ever imagine. He then went on to work on Kajiro Yamamoto’s “Eagle of the Pacific”, the story of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Kajiro Yamamoto originally wrote the screenplay, and upon reading and discussing the screenplay with Mr. Yamamoto, my husband said that this was something he was able to really relate to. This is one of my favorite films as well.

I feel that every film must have had its hardships and hurdles as well as pure joy in making them.  And then came “Godzilla”. I do not think I need to say any more. No one was able to even imagine what this was, whether this was something of the sea or of land. With everyone’s cooperation, the director’s perseverance and great effort, after numerous days of production, the film was completed.  My husband was always saying to the actors; “If you feel this is ludicrous and cannot see it getting made, please leave now. If you are able to imagine a creature of this nature being born years after the dropping of the A-bomb, then let us make this film together”.

From there, the film was just ‘a fish on the cutting board’, (a Japanese expression…the fish all prepared and waiting on the cutting board to be cooked, meaning that everything was done, awaiting the result), awaiting to be reviewed and evaluated. When the film was finally released, the line on opening day wrapped 3 times around the Nichigeki Theater. The entire staff that worked very hard was also ecstatic.

But, from here things became more difficult for him; the documentaries and youth films which he had wanted to make were all forced aside while he made one special effects film after another. Fortunately, because he loved science since he was a child, he was still able to enjoy making each film, especially “Battle in Outer Space” and “Matango”. He even went to Tokyo University, where they were doing various researches on these topics, everyday to study and learn. However, when asked,  “which film is your best work” at interviews, he always answered saying, “I gave my all to each and every one, but none were completely satisfactory”.

When he turned 60, he said he was going to quit Toho. He must have had some kind of feeling, and I agreed. After that, he enjoyed playing golf, viewing art and going to the movies for the next 10 years.

Age 70… this is when his world with Kurosawa began.  Kuro-san (aka Akira Kurosawa) said, “Let’s work together again, like the old days when we were assistants for Yama-san (Kajiro Yamamoto)”.  His reply was “If you do not think I will be in the way, I would be happy to”.  Since then, the two became inseparable, whether it was writing screenplays or playing golf.  Initially, there were many people, even in America, who thought it funny for Honda to join Team Kurosawa. But as they worked on their first film, their second film…people realized and felt that it was very natural to have Honda next to Kurosawa. Those two, who were able to do what they loved until the very end with their best friend, were truly happy and blessed. No wonder he left without saying much and with such a wonderful look on his face.

Kimi Honda
Kimi Honda