1.000 years in Business: The 7 Oldest Companies in the world

By: Claudia Repsold

It’s said that less than one in five businesses started today will be around in five years’ time – which puts this story into perspective.

The world was a very different place back in 705 AD when the first company of this list opened its doors. The fall of Rome still dominated the culture of the time. The Chinese had just invented gunpowder. The Maya were about to crumble in South America. So much, have change since them. How those seven companies manage to survive 1.000 years in business, still puzzle me.

Historically, the average lifespan of a multinational corporation has been between 40 and 50 years. There are, however, exceptions to these dismal statistics: world-wide, there are 967 businesses founded prior to the year 1700 that are still in operation today.

Astonishingly, 517 of them, or 53%, are located in one country: Japan. The majority of the its longest surviving businesses were created along trade routes from Tokyo to Kyoto and a family run for dozens of generations.

The next closest country, Germany, houses a mere 19% of the world’s oldest businesses, most of which are breweries. After that, no other country boasts more than 5%.

To sustain longevity, you must evolve. Below the list of seven businesses that manage to keep evolving for a millennium.


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1º – Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, in Hayakawa, Japan

Founded: 705

Years in Business: 1,312 years

Country: Japan

Industry: Hotel

According to the Guinness Book of World Records the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the oldest running hotel in the world. Founded in 705, after the hunter Fujiwara Mahito discovered a wounded white monkey healing itself in the hot spring, the inn has been a popular destination for the sick for 1,300 years. The same family has run the hotel for 52 generations. Maybe, the secret to its success is a sense of inter-generational pride. Not just from the founding family but also from some staff members whose families have held the same post for generations, passing it from parent to child to grandchild.

Hoshi Ryokan

2º –  Hoshi Ryokan, in Komatsu City, Japan

Founded: 718

Years in Business: 1,299 years

Country: Japan

Industry: Hotel

The story goes that a great Buddhist teacher, Taicho Daishi, had hiked up to the top of the sacred Mt. Hakusan, near the village of Awazu. While he was asleep after a hard training session, the deity of the mountain appeared to him in a dream, telling him the location of the hot spring. Daishi was in search of enlightenment, so he bestowed the task of building a spa business at the site upon his disciple Garyo Hōshi, who really took the idea and ran with it. Hōshi’s family have diligently running the Hoshi Ryokan Hotel for 46 generations.

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3º – Stiftskeller in St. Peter Austria

 Founded: 803

Years in Business: 1,214 years

Country: Austria

Industry: Restaurant & Inn

The Stiftskeller restaurant inside St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, Austria, may be the oldest continuously running restaurant in Europe, and perhaps the world. In 803 AD, the English scholar Alcuin of York wrote about the classy dining spot when he served Emperor Charlemagne and Bishop Arno of Salzburg. Christopher ColumbusJohann Georg Faust, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are said to have been served at the restaurant.

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4º – Staffelter Hof in Krov, Germany

Founded: 862

Years in Business: 1,155 years

Country: Germany

Industry: Winery

Wine, one of the oldest drinks in the world, could not fail to have a representative on the list. Staffelter Hof is the oldest operating winery in the world. In 862, King Lothars II donated the land to the monastery for monks to work in the vineyard as a source of income. The property was in possession of the abbey until the establishment of the Napoleonic Code in 1804. One year late, in 1805,  Staffelter Hof became private winery after being bought by Peter Schneiders and subsequently passed down 7 generations.

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5º – Tanaka-Iga in Kyoto, Japan

Founded: 885

Years in Business: 1,132 years

Country: Japan

Industry: Religious articles & Decorative items.

Based in Kyoto, Tanaka-Iga was established in 888, or 885 depending on who you ask, and have been producing high quality Buddhist goods for well over, 1125. Over time, however, it has diversified its portfolio and today also works with furniture and decorative items.

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6º – Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland

Founded: 900

Years in Business: 1,117 years

Country: Ireland

Industry: Bar & Restaurant

Sean’s Bar is one of the oldest pubs in Ireland and also in Europe. The secret of its success? Location, location, location. The pub is located in the very heart of Ireland, on the banks of the beautiful River Shannon at its intersection with the Esker Riada. The ancient route carved by glaciers had allowed travelers safe passage across the bog for thousands of years. Sean’s Bar sits just next to Athlone Castle, a 12th century Norman Castle whose residents may have frequented the pub.

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7º –  Nakamura Shaji  in Aichi Japan

Founded: 970

Years in Business: 1040 years

Country: Japan

Industry: Construction

Nakamura Shaji can trace his story over thousands of years, starting with a carpenter working in Buddhist temples. The construction company which has spanned for over 40 generations, currently specializes in the construction of the Shinto shrine in addition to the temples that made them famous.

Claudia Repsold

Claudia Repsold is editor-in-chief of Brazil & US BIZ. She is an award-winning Brazilian journalist with twenty years of experience in International News. She is a passionate storyteller who loves traveling, hiking and learn about natural healing



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