How many children nowadays live anywhere near a palace where a real live emperor lives? Satoru (11), Masashi (10),Tacumi (9), Motoi (6), Izumi (5), and Megumi (2) Honda do. Their city also has sumo wrestlers, baseball teams, kabuki* theaters, skyscrapers, and companies that make a lot of the world’s cars and electronics. They live in Tokyo, Japan’s capital and largest city.
The Hondas are a large family by Japanese standards, and a happy one by any standard. They look out for one another. Each child takes responsibility for all those who are younger. This is a great help to their mother, Mihato, and father, Takaharu.
The children all have talents that make family life go more smoothly. Satoru is an excellent cook. Chinese food is his favorite, but he can also cook Japanese, Italian, American—you name it—following a recipe or using whatever he finds in the refrigerator. When Sister Honda gave birth to Megumi, Satoru cooked the family’s dinners by himself for a whole month.
Satoru enjoys crossword puzzles and anything else that gives his brain a good workout. He is always eager to learn new things.
He will become a deacon soon, and Brother Honda has been giving him lessons about the Aaronic Priesthood. As part of these lessons, they went to a cemetery to do family history research. Satoru, who is a quick learner, had to master an old form of writing to read the names and dates. He plans to be baptized in the Tokyo Japan Temple for his ancestors when he turns twelve.
Masashi enjoys sports. He plays forward on a soccer team that took second place in its league. He refuses to play in Sunday matches, although his coach and teammates want him to. He is also good at skiing and baseball. He is the first one in the family to start playing any game and the last one to stop.
Masashi is kind to his little brothers and sisters and has a special knack for getting them to bed in the summertime. He likes giving them piggyback rides, too. At school he is a peacemaker who sees the good in others. When one boy didn’t get along with his classmates, Masashi helped him fit in.
Tacumi is a natural handyman and likes to build things. An enthusiastic recycler, he uses worn-out or discarded items to make toys for his young sisters. He concentrates intensely on the task at hand and doesn’t give up until he has mastered it. He was the weakest skier and swimmer of the three older brothers, but he worked so hard to improve that he became the best.
Being a loyal friend is another of Tacumi’s talents. His schoolteacher noticed that when she asked students to divide into groups, Tacumi would make a group with any children who were left out. When his mother asked him who his best friend was, he answered, “Everyone!”
Motoi has one of the world’s cutest smiles. He smiled earlier than anyone else in the family, and he’s smiled often ever since. Although he is a little cautious, he’s always willing to follow his big brothers’ examples and grow stronger. It was hard for him to learn to swim because he didn’t like putting his face into the water. He worked on the task a whole summer until he could swim just fine.
Motoi is looking forward to his baptism, and he studies the scriptures to prepare himself. He has a strong spirit. Hospitalized twice for painful conditions, he faced his suffering with patience and courage.
Izumi is energetic. She’s not afraid to tell her four big brothers what to do and what not to do, and they actually listen to her! She likes to help her mother. Whatever she sees Sister Honda doing, she must do, too.
Once Izumi wanted to plant flowers, so Sister Honda got her some seeds. When the flowers bloomed, Izumi gave a bouquet to her kindergarten teacher. This, she explained, was why she had wanted to plant flowers in the first place.
Megumi loves animals. She goes right up to even the biggest dogs, which makes her mother nervous. “Megumi is the mood-maker in the family and a great talker,” Sister Honda adds.
On the kitchen wall is a paper wheel showing each child’s family home evening assignment. Commuting takes a long time in Tokyo, and like most men, Dad gets home late from his job in downtown Tokyo. So Sister Honda usually starts family home evening until he arrives. The children do their parts eagerly.
When their ward is on an early schedule, the Hondas follow a unique family tradition. On the first Sunday of the month, Brother Honda fixes dinner by himself. On the second Sunday, Satoru helps him. On the third Sunday, it’s Masashi’s turn to help him, and so on. After each meal, the children play paper, rocks, and scissors to see who will clean up. Izumi always wants to lose because she enjoys cleaning and washing.
Each summer, the family goes camping in the mountains or by a river. In wintertime, they enjoy skiing trips. They love one another’s company. In spite of their very busy lives, they can always be found together for Church meetings, prayer, scripture study, dinner, and fun.
A song in the Children’s Songbook† describes the Honda home perfectly. Love truly is spoken here.
Learning to read Japanese is much more difficult than learning to read English. English is largely phonetic. That is, each of its letters represents a sound or sounds, so d-o-g can be sounded out to get dog. Japanese has four different writing systems. The most important one, kanji, is not phonetic. It uses some two thousand Chinese characters that represent concepts, not sounds. These can be combined to make thousands of other concepts. These characters and combinations cannot be sounded out but must simply be memorized. Each Japanese child also learns two phonetic systems—hiragana (phonetic symbols made from simplified kanji characters) and katakana (used mostly for writing foreign words or names so that they can be pronounced correctly). Many also learn Romaji (Roman letters such as we use in English. People’s names in this article are written in Romaji.). Mastering this complex system helps develop excellent concentration and memory skills. Here is President Hinckley’s name written in Kanji, and Katakana: