Shitennoji Temple Osaka

Kongo Gumi – The Miyadaiku World’s Oldest Company

Kongo Gumi is a Japanese construction company and was the world’s oldest continuously ongoing independent company, operating for over 1,400 years until it was absorbed as a subsidiary of another larger construction company.

Headquartered in Osaka, the once family-owned construction company traced its origins to 578 when one of the engineers whom Prince Shotoku—brought from Baekje to Japan to build the Buddhist temple Shitennoji Temple—decided to start his own business.

Over the centuries, Kongo Gumi participated in the construction of many famous buildings, including the 16th century Osakajo Castle. A 10-foot 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 Kongo family name.

Osaka Jo Castle
Osaka Jo Castle

Thus, through the years, the line has continued through either a son or a daughter. The company fell on hard times and went into liquidation in January 2006. Its assets were purchased by Takamatsu Corporation.

Before its liquidation, it had over 100 employees and annual revenue of ¥7.5 billion ($80 million) in 2005; it still specialized in building Buddhist temples. The last president was Kongo Masakazu, the 40th Kongo to lead the firm.

As of December 2006, Kongo Gumi continues to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Takamatsu. It should be noted that the Kongo family still continues to practice as Miya Daiku (carpenters).

Miya Daiku: So-called “Miya Daiku”, translated into English as “shrine carpenters” are traditional carpenters who design and construct shrines and temples in Japan. Miya Daiku is a profession separate from conventional house carpentry.