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Japan's oldest company defies time with merit-based succession

1,400-year-old contractor survives on expertise in building temples and shrines

Exhibits at Kongo Gumi's processing center in the Osaka Prefecture city of Sakai show traditional construction methods for temples and shrines. (Photo courtesy of Kyosuke Ogame)

TOKYO -- Kongo Gumi, a contractor widely believed to be Japan's oldest ongoing company, was created in the sixth century to build a Buddhist temple in what is now Osaka.

To be exact, it was founded in 578 to build the temple, Shitenno-ji, as a massive national project led by Prince Shotoku, a political leader devoted to Buddhism.

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