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Last Update: Thursday September 21, 2017

The Finest Businesses of Japan -- All are being considered...

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Japan's oldest family businesses

Lessons about continuity, courage and endurance

1. Hoshi Ryokan

A hotel and spa, Hoshi Ryokan was founded in 718 AD in the village of Komatsu, Japan.  46th generation

According to legend, the god of Mount Hakusan visited a Buddhist priest, telling him to uncover an underground hot spring in a nearby village. The hot spring was found, and the priest requested that his disciple, a woodcutter’s son named Garyo Saskiri, build and run a spa on the site. His family, known as Hoshi, have run a hotel in Komatsu ever since; the current structure houses 450 people in 100 rooms. Zengoro Hoshi is the current patriarch. 

Website: http://www.ho-shi.co.jp/

2. Toraya

Japan’s oldest traditional confectionery  in Tokyo has 79 shops with revenues of about $150 million per year.  This business was founded prior to 1600. 

Seventeen generations  have been making the sweet delicacy known as wagashi since its founding in Kyoto by Enchu Kurokawa. After his son Kichiemon Kurokawa cultivated relationships with Japan’s nobility, the firm became purveyor to Japan’s Imperial Court in the 17th and 18th centuries. The firm moved to Tokyo in 1879 and opened its first branch retail outlet in 1962.

Today,  Mitsuhiro Kurokawa, a former banker, is the company's patriarch.

Website: http://www.toraya-group.co.jp

3. Enshu Sado School

This ceremonial tea school in Tokyo was founded around 1602.  Thirteen generations of family members have taught the grace, digntity and art of  the traditional Sado tea ceremony and its culture to Japanese.

The school was founded by Lord Enshu Kobori (1579-1647), who served as official tea instructor for Japan’s second and third shogun and built the famous Nagoya and Osaka castles.

Current grand master Sojitsu Kobori succeeded his father in 2001 at age 44 and now oversees a staff of 20 with 30,000 practitioners, 53 local chapters in Japan, international chapters in Holland and Korea, and a school in Singapore. He goes to the school’s ancestor room each morning to pay his respects to his forebears.

Website: http://www.enshuryu.com

4. Others:  Kongo Gumi & Takamatsu

Summary:  Even Kongo Gumi's history and demise might be studied in light of the current work of Takamatsu, the construction company that absorbed Kongo Gumi as a  subsidiary.This business is believe to be the oldest business in the world.  A family business from 578 AD was an under-appreciated national treasure.  A study of the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple, Osaka castle, might also be part of that study. Certainly Toshitaka Kongo and his 51-year old son,  Masakazu Kongoh, have much to teach us as well.

Websitehttp://www.takamatsu-const.co.jp/  http://www.kongogumi.co.jp/



Is there any institution more enduring

or universal than a family's business?

Professor William O’Hara, the pre-eminent expert on this subject, posed that rhetorical question in his recent book, Centuries of Success. He also provided his answer: “Before the multinational corporation, there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of Rome, there was family business.” 

Reference: http://www.familybusinessmagazine.com/oldworld.html




for an episode of the show within Japan

These are genuine stories about courage, continuity, and creativity.     (Index..)

Estimated Businesses in Japan: There are over 125 million people in Japan.  There are approximately ten million businesses in Japan.

Identify 100,000.  This television show goal is to list as many as 1% or 100,000 of the very finest businesses as judged by their customers, validated by the local business community, and then finally lifted up by their local community.

The lists will emerge by industry or business sector.  These are the first groups to be researched:

  • Architectural firms and construction companies
  • Agricultural

  • Business advocacy organizations

  • Conglomerates and those very large, publicly-traded corporations to be partners for advertising and more

  • Manufacturing

  • Media

    - Newspaper, magazines, radio television

  • Private equity invesmtent groups

  • Productions companies for film and television

  • Service companies

  • Stock markets and exchanges

In the example, architectural firms, these businesses are recommended by virtue of their membership in the Japan Architectural Education and Information Center.  A deeper interest that in part reflects the vision and first principles of the television productions. 

Work with 10,000.  Of that 100,000, the hope is to have 10,000 developing their  stories online and to have as many as 1000 stories per year in production.

Key questions about business and life:  Of all the businesses, which are the oldest businesses?  How have they survived so long?  What has been their right attitude and spirit? 

This television show is about finding the very finest businesses and finding out what makes them so good:

  • In what ways are they good to their employees?

  • How and why are they good to their community?

  • How did they become leaders in their industry? 

A Three-Step Process:  All of the companies listed and to be listed have been nominated by someone who loves the business.  They love their products and services.  They love their creativity, their courage, and their openness with their customers.

All of the companies listed have been reviewed by local business professors, local business editors from newspaper and television, local business advisers like CPAs, local economic development specialists, and people from the local chamber of commerce and industry trade association.  These business advocates know the heart and the spirit of the business leaders within their community.  They create the initial rank order for this listing.

Once the business agrees to be candidate to be profiled on television, they are listed in a top 1000 companies.  The top 100 are the next businesses to be profiled for television.  All 1000 will be profiled on the web.  More about the selection process, the mission, and the vision

This Twelve-Year Legacy:  Every week since September 1994, the production team of Small Business School has fed a show to PBS stations throughout the USA.  In 1995 the Voice of America began airing these episodes around the world.  In that time an episode included  Bob Sakata,  a Japanese American who the royal family visited in 1994.  In keeping with PBS, there has been a diversity of episodes.  There are ten season of episodes  readily available for viewing on the web.  

There are 25 of the school's video clips that make up the New York Times   streaming video section for small business.


Additional Japanese companies under consideration:

Takenaka

Architectural and construction company in Osaka, Japan, founded in 1610, is now run by the 17th generation of the Takenaka family.   Office buildings include  Mitsui Bank and Nippon Life Insurance.   Toichi Takenaka is the President & CEO and is very conscious of architectures impact on society.  The firm has won many awards for design, technique and quality.  

Website: http://www.takenaka.co.jp

Other Key references:  http://www.takenaka.co.jp/takenaka_e/

Kikkoman

The Mogi family business is the world’s largest producer of soy sauce products.  Kikkoman  was founded in 1630 in Noda, Japan by Shige Maki.  She had been widowed when her husband was defeated in battle at the Osaka Castle early in the 1600s.  Her small business, making food products, eventually focusing on soy sauce, became a world force when in 1917  eight branches of the family merged their companies together.

Websitehttp://kikkoman.com

Sumitomo Corporation

Although today a worldwide conglomerate based in Tokyo, this business began in 1630 when Masatomo Sumitomo opened a  shop in Kyoto to sell medicine sand books.  Each generation grew the business.  Sumitomo Group’s current core consists of 20 companies focusing on banking, shipbuilding, mining, glass production, electronics, cement, lumber and chemicals.

Websitehttp://www.sumitomocorp.co.jp

Gekkeikan

Jiemon Okura started his brewry for sake in 1637 in the town of Fushimi. Now,  13th generations later,  the Gekkeikan brewery is known throughout the world for the quality of its sake.  This business is  the official supplier of the Japanese Imperial household. Currently, the business makes more than 170 different products and exports to more than 60 countries.

Websitehttp://www.gekkeikan.co.jp

Yamamotoyama

The Yamamotoyama family began producing premium teas in Japan more than three centuries ago. The company, founded in 1690, is now the oldest family-owned tea business in the world.

Websitehttp://www.yamamotoyama.com