Kongō Gumi is the oldest company still in existence, having been founded in 578 AD in Japan. Founded as a temple construction company, it has survived the centuries, surviving a number of wars and changes in the country’s political and economic systems. Today, Kongō Gumi remains an important part of Japan's corporate culture and economy.
The founder of Kongō Gumi was Tajima no Masakado, who began his business by producing temple sculptures for nearby Buddhist shrines. Over time, he and his descendants acquired new technologies and skills to expand their services, eventually becoming a full-service construction firm specializing in building shrines and temples across Japan.
In 741 AD, Kongō Gumi started work on its first major project – the building of the Todaiji Temple. This work would span over three generations and take 50 years to complete, yet even after the completion of this remarkable feat of architecture, Kongō Gumi would remain true to its roots as a specialist contractor for temple architecture. Although modern technology has allowed them to apply their skills to different types of projects today, the company's core business remains shrine and temple construction.
Over its long history, Kongō Gumi faced numerous challenges but survived through innovation and adaptation. Following World War II, when much of Japan was destroyed by Allied bombings, Kongō Gumi shifted focus from religious architecture towards commercial buildings such as office towers and shopping malls. During Japan’s period of great economic growth (the “Economic Miracle”), they were commissioned on some of the largest construction projects ever seen, including Osaka Airport Terminal Building 1 & 2; Tokyo Tower; Sapporo Dome Stadium; Kansai International Airport; Rinku Town Mall near Osaka Airport; Shinjuku Station East Entrance Building; JR Hiroshima Station Entrance Building; Miyazaki Prefectural Museum & Art Gallery (the oldest museum in Kyushu); Kobe Port Island Interchange Bridge; Kobe City Hall Reconstruction (destroyed during Great Hanshin Earthquake); The Tower at Pudong Shanghai (in association with Mori Building).
Eventually, it's Exit or Die
Kongō Gumi maintained its independence until 2006, when it was acquired by Takamatsu Corporation for ¥186 billion ($1.6 billion) after facing financial difficulties. However, despite being owned by Takamatsu today, Kongō Gumi continues to hold onto its ancient traditions while adapting them for use in modern times – not only maintaining its specialist expertise but also leading the way forward with new technologies such as BIM (Building Information Modelling) which is revolutionizing construction industry standards across Asia Pacific.
Kongō Gumi is an incredible testament to how resilience can be combined with tradition to create something that stands the test of time – a unique example that teaches us that there will always be opportunities to innovate within traditional frameworks if we choose to embrace them rather than discard them completely when faced with change or adversity. As such, it serves both as an inspiration as well as a reminder that it really is possible to achieve both longevity and success at the same time!
What is the oldest business still believed to have never been sold (passed down from generation to generation)
Hoshi Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn located in the town of Awazu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. The inn was founded in 717 AD by the Hoshi family, who have been operating the inn for over 1,300 years. It is considered to be the oldest continuously operating inn in Japan, and possibly the world.
Hoshi Ryokan is known for its traditional Japanese architecture and atmosphere, as well as its hot spring baths, which are fed by natural hot springs. The inn has just a few rooms, and guests can experience traditional Japanese hospitality and culture while staying there.
Hoshi Ryokan has a long history and has been visited by many notable figures over the years, including the Emperor of Japan and several Japanese prime ministers. It is a popular destination for tourists and has been featured in several Japanese TV shows and movies.
In addition to its traditional inn rooms, Hoshi Ryokan also operates a restaurant that serves traditional Japanese cuisine, including dishes made with local ingredients. The inn is located in a beautiful natural setting, surrounded by mountains and forests, and offers a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere for its guests.
It is not clear whether Hoshi Ryokan has ever sold or changed ownership. The inn has been operated by the Hoshi family for over 1,300 years, and it is possible that it has remained in the same family throughout its history.
In Japan, it is not uncommon for businesses, particularly small, family-owned ones, to be passed down through the generations within the same family. It is possible that Hoshi Ryokan has followed this tradition and has remained in the hands of the Hoshi family since it was founded in 717 AD.
Without more information, it is not possible to say for certain whether Hoshi Ryokan has ever sold or changed ownership. It is worth noting that the concept of "ownership" as we know it today is a relatively modern concept, and it is possible that the inn has operated in a different way throughout its long history.
We'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it's the oldest business to have never been sold, but it's only been 1300 years and as we’ve seen in the first example, everything changes with time and circumstances.
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