In death, Shoichiro Toyoda rekindles Toyota’s risk taking, tenacious spirit

Family members were front and center at a morning ceremony, including Toyoda’s son and current Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda, his widow Hiroko and his daughter Atsuko. Also on hand was Toyoda’s grandson Daisuke, an executive at Toyota’s software subsidiary, Woven by Toyota.

At multiple services throughout the day, Toyota executives, Japanese business leaders, diplomats, politicians and public well-wishers thronged a luxury hotel ballroom for final farewells.

Toyota counted some 5,800 attendees, including those visiting satellite tribute venues in Nagoya and Toyota City. Dignitaries included Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel.

Shoichiro Toyoda, who led the company through unprecedented overseas expansion as its president from 1981 to 1992, served as chairman until 1999. He remained honorary chairman until his death at age 97.

A giant portrait of Toyoda wearing a beaming smile stood atop a massive dais with thousands of blue and white carnations, traditional Japanese funerary flowers, angled upwards, like the slopes of Mount Fuji. A condolence offering from Japanese Emperor Naruhito adorned the arrangement.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, former chairman famed for developing the Toyota Prius hybrid, and his son Akio, the current chairman, gave eulogies. Both men choked back tears as they struggled to complete their tributes to the Toyota legend. They were among the first of hundreds to lay carnations on the stage.

“Literally, my father was the one who opened the doors to the world and paved the way for Toyota to step out from Japan to the world,” Akio Toyoda said.

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