Did you know that the three oldest still-running businesses in the world are all Japanese? And that they're all hotels? And that two of them were founded in the same year, about 1.3 millennia ago? They don't try to profit, but merely to break even. They hire inexperienced workers, and train them up on the job. And they never advertise. So how can these places survive both the fall of The Roman Empire and the financial crisis? Let's take a look…
Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan
Okay, so this place was founded in the year 706. That's right, three digits. Legend has it that a hunter was going about hunting nearby, and found a hidden hot-spring, dipped an injured arm into it and, presto, he was instantly healed.
When he told people this story, instead of coughing and saying bulls**t under their breaths, they said "Sweet, let's all go there in droves!". And so they did.
The fact is that, healing or not, the place still had running hot water -- an innovation that other hotels wouldn't get for another thousand years. And hot springs tend to be in pretty remote locations, so despite the fact that both Ghengis Khan and the US Marine corps both tried to conquer the place at one time or another, they never leveled this part of the country.
These young bucks founded their hotel eleven years later, and also have a legend! A Buddhist priest was asleep on a mountain when the the mountain itself came to him in a dream (seriously) and told him to go find a hot spring. He did, and once again, people went there to get their heal on.
This place has an additional longevity secret though: it's been in the same family the whole time. How did one of them not one generation completely screw the pooch and run them into bankruptcy?
Well, in Japan over 90% of adoptions are above the age of 25, with businessmen adopting a young go-getter who they think can run their company after them. At Hoshi, they take things a step further, and make their talented adoptees take the full, badass name Zengoro Hoshi. There have been 46 Zengoro Hoshi's so far.
Also founded in 717 year, the Koman follows the good ol' Buddist-dream-magical-healing-hot-springs pattern (which by now you'd think everyone would be doing) and they've also tried to keep things in the fam.
But what's so special about this time period particular? Well, for the first time in the country's history, there were no longer warlords running around ruining hotel businesses by stealing towels and such. In fact, it was the beginning of the Nara period, characterized by a strong, centralized government, and the invention of the damn Samurai to keep things kosher.