Congo Gumi; The oldest construction company has survived for 1400 years. Congo Gumi has been a successful Japanese company responsible for building magnificent Buddhist temples for 1,400 years. Until the autumn of 2006, it was the oldest and longest-running family business in the world, surviving 14 centuries of political turmoil, economic crises and world wars. However, industrial giant Congo Gumi announced its bankruptcy after the economic crisis in Japan about ten years ago.
The Story Starting with the Prince’s Invitation
The three-meter long family tree text turns 40 generations of the Congo family into the company’s founding story in 578 AD. Shigemitsu Congo, a successful carpenter, was invited from Baekje on the Korean peninsula with two master craftsmen. In Shitenno-ji, they built Japan’s first Buddhist temple. The invitation came from Prince Shotoku, a powerful politician of the Asuka era in Japan, who served under the Suiko Empire. Prince Shotoku was a well-known Buddhist figure who contributed to the spread of Buddhism to Japan.
Shitenno-ji – First Creation of Congo Gumi
The Osaka-based Shitennō-ji Buddhist temple was built by Prince Shotoku to worship the four heavenly kings known as Shitennō. Four institutions were built to honor the kings – religious and educational institutions, a social institution, a hospital and a pharmacy. The temple complex consists of a five-story pagoda, a main Golden Pavilion, a conference room and three temple gates.
Following the success and honor of building Japan’s first Buddhist temple, veteran master Shigemitsu Congo founded the company Congo Gumi on behalf of his family name, where his carpentry skills passed through the family line for centuries. If there were no male heirs, or if the existing heirs were not eligible to run the family business, the reins would be transferred to a son-in-law or a girl who would use the Congo name. In all cases, family members who took control of the company were carefully selected based on their leadership skills.