The World’s Oldest Business is 1,441 Years Old

What currently running business is the oldest known? We were impressed to learn that a Japanese manufacturer of sake, Sudo-Honke, based in Obara was established in the year 1141 AD!

Sudo Honke (Established in 1141)

Sake is one of the best loved alcoholic beverages in Japan and, much like whisky in Scotland, its manufacture is rooted in a deep and precise tradition.

Perhaps that’s why Sudo Honke, the oldest business on the planet, remains popular after almost 800 years.

The team at Sudo Honke retain a simple, clean and effective method of brewing rice wine. So while they’ll never be brewing sake on an industrial scale, their traditional brewing techniques will be valued for lifetimes to come.


Could any company be older than this? Surprisingly, yes. According to Wikipedia, here are 30 companies (below) that are as old or even older than Sudo Honke. The oldest company still in operation in some way is Kongō Gumi established 1,441 years ago in the year 578 AD in Japan.

… this Japanese construction company … was the world’s oldest continuously ongoing independent company, operating for over 1,400 years until it was absorbed as a subsidiary of Takamatsu in 2006. …

A three-meter 17th-century scroll traces the 40 generations back to the company’s start. As with many distinguished Japanese families, sons-in-law often joined the clan and took the Kongō family name. Thus, through the years, the line has continued through either a son or a daughter. 


Shigemitsu Kongo was a renowned temple builder, and the royal family in Japan commissioned him to build the Shitenno-ji temple, which still stands today in Osaka. Kongo saw an incredible opportunity. Buddhism was catching on fast, and he knew he could be kept busy for decades building temples. It turned out to be centuries. Over 14 centuries, in fact.

… What Kongo Gumi couldn’t survive was debt. It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual, a company, a government, or even a central bank; if your balance sheet doesn’t add up, sooner or later you’re going under.


This chart showing the AD year these oldest companies were established is interesting. Adapted from Wikipedia.

Year Company Current location Field
578 Kongō Gumi Japan Construction
705 Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Japan Hotel
717 Koman Japan Hotel
718 Hōshi Ryokan Japan Hotel
771 Genda Shigyō Japan Ceremonial paper goods
803 St. Peter Stiftskulinarium Austria Restaurant
862 Staffelter Hof Germany Wine
864 Monnaie de Paris France Mint
885 Tanaka-Iga Japan Religious goods
886 Royal Mint United Kingdom Mint
900 Sean’s Bar Ireland Pub
953 The Bingley Arms United Kingdom Pub
970 Nakamura Shaji Japan Construction
1000 Château de Goulaine France Wine
1000 Marinelli Bell Foundry Italy Foundry
1000 Ichimonjiya Wasuke Japan Confectionery
1024 Shumiya-Shinbutsuguten Japan Religious goods
1040 Weihenstephan Germany Brewery
1050 Weltenburger Germany Brewery
1074 Benediktinerstift Admont Austria Woodworking
1075 Takahan Ryokan Japan Hotel
1100 Schloss Johannisberg Germany Wine
1120 Zum Roten Bären Germany Hotel
1126 Taferne Austria Hotel
1128 Halydean Corporation United Kingdom Land & Livestock
1131 Hofbrauhaus Arolsen Germany Brewery
1134 Geto Onsen Japan Hotel
1135 Munke Mølle Denmark Mill
1135 The Olde Bell United Kingdom Hotel
1136 Aberdeen Harbour Board United Kingdom Harbor
1141 Barone Ricasoli Italy Wine
1141 Sudo Honke Japan Sake

Some of these companies have been in business longer than methuselah an ancient character who is claimed by literal bible believers to have lived 969 years.

Fun tour idea:  Big Eight Immortal Business Tour

On the Immortal Business Tour we will visit a temple created by the oldest company in the world, Kongō Gumi, (established 578 AD,) then stay three nights, one per night at the three oldest hotels in the world which are also in Japan and are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th oldest still operating companies in the world.

Next we will obtain ceremonial paper goods from Genda Shigyō and then fly to Salzburg, Austria for dinner at a restaurant within the walls of St Peter’s Abbey, after which we will visit Staffelter Hof in Germany for some Wine, and finally hop over to France and tour the Mint to finish out your tour of the 8 oldest companies in the world.

Cost and dates to be determined.

“Connect to Internet for further detail.”


Just kidding. That’s my description and a link to a company I just found on line. Xeno’s Tours has nothing to do with my imaginary Big Eight Immortal Business Tour … yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s