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The oldest operating company in history

Kongo Gumi Inc is the continuation of the oldest operating company in history. The company began in in 578 A.D. when Shigemitsu Kongo, a skilled carpenter, along with two other master craftsmen, were invited from Baekje in the Korean peninsula to build Japan’s first Buddhist temple at Shitenno-ji. The invitation came from Prince Shotoku, a regent and politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. Prince Shotoku is known for having been an ardent Buddhist who contributed to the spread of Buddhism throughout Japan.

One of the crown jewels of the Kongo Gumi story is Shitenno-Ji which is a temple built in Osaka Japan that still stands today.

For more than 1,400 years, Kongo Gumi was a successful Japanese company involved with the construction of pectacular Buddhist temples. Until its failure in 2006, it was the world’s oldest continuously operating family business, surviving 14 centuries of political upheavals, economic crises, and world wars. The company survived countless political crises, wars, and natural disasters. They survived the Meiji Restoration in the 1800s, a period in which the government set out to radicate Buddhism from Japan, and hence, the temple building industry.

They even survived two atomic bombs.

What Kongo Gumi couldn’t survive was debt.

The demise of Kong Gumi started back in the 1980s. Japan was in the midst of an epic financial bubble thanks to unconstrained credit growth and expansion of the money supply.

Central bankers artificially suppressed interest rates, keeping them way too low for way too long. And it created a huge asset bubble.

Asset prices in Japan got so out of control that for a short time during the 1980s, it was said that the grounds of the imperial palace in Tokyo were worth more than all of the real estate in the entire state of California.

As part of this bubble, banks had relaxed their lending standards and were handing out loans to just about anyone.And many Japanese companies took on vast amounts of debt, including Kongo Gumi.

However, when the debt bubble burst in 1989, asset prices collapsed. The companies that previously borrowed heavily were left with nothing but debt.

Kongo Gumi didn’t go out of business right away. The company was able to limp along for more than two decades on basic life support.

Soon they were borrowing money just to pay interest on the money they had already borrowed, even though interest rates were at record lows.

But eventually the company’s revenues were no longer sufficient to service the debt.

So not even Kongo Gumi could survive Japan’s economic downtown.

The company lasted more than 40 generations within the family.

However, the story did not end in 2006. In January 2006. Its assets were purchased by Takamatsu Corporation. After this acquisition, the company details became sketchy but it appears that in 2016 or so the company ceased to operate.

The founder of our travel and vacation program, Paddy Deighan, thought this was a travesty and Kongo Gumi Inc was formed in 2016 to continue the 1400+ year tradition.

We hope to serve the memory of the Kongo family well.

Paddy Deighan

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Thank you for helping me to save money for my next trip and thank you for helping my parents to get out of their timeshare…Next time they go to Mexico I’ll make sure they stay away from timeshare tours. Everyone was also kind and helpful! Thank you from all of us!

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