Honda spent his early childhood helping his father with his bicycle repair business. At 15, without any formal education, Honda relocated to Tokyo to look for work. He obtained an apprenticeship at a garage in 1922, and after some vacillation over his employment, he stayed for six years, working as car mechanic before returning home once more to start his own car mechanic business in 1928 at the age of 22.
Honda enjoyed racing, and set a speed record in 1936. He suffered in a bad crash, breaking several bones including both wrists, and was persuaded by his wife to give up racing. Honda thereafter concentrated on his business, and in 1937 he moved into piston-ring manufacture, setting up Tokai Seiki Heavy Industry (TSHI). In 1948 Honda had sold TSHI to Toyota for 450,000 yen (worth about US$1 million in 2003 terms).
In 1948 Honda began producing motorcycles as president of the Honda Corporation. Honda turned the company into a billion-dollar multinational that produced the best-selling motorcycle in the world. Honda's excellent engineering and clever marketing resulted in Honda motorcycles out-selling Triumph and Harley-Davidson in their respective home markets. In 1959 Honda Motorcycles opened its first dealership in the United States.
Honda remained president until his retirement in 1973, stayed on as director and was appointed "supreme adviser" in 1983. In retirement Honda busied himself with work connected with the Honda Foundation. He died in 1992.