Dec 03, 2020 11:38 AM EST
A Japanese shop selling toasted mochi from a small, cedar-timbered in Kyoto started a business during the pandemic in the year 1000.
Naomi Hasegawa's family started providing refreshments to travelers from across Japan to pray for pandemic relief at the time. After more than a millennium, a new disease has devastated the economy in the ancient capital. However, Ms.Hasegawa doesn't worry about her enterprise's financial stability.
Ms. Hasegawa's family shop, "Ichiwa," takes a long view like many businesses in Japan. According to the New York Times, Ichiwa weathered wars, natural disasters, plagues, and the rise and fall of empires by putting stability and tradition over profit and growth.
The 1,029-year-old Japanese shop's resilience states lessons for other businesses in places like the U.S., where tens of thousands of businesses were forced into bankruptcy due to the coronavirus.
Kenji Matsuoka, a professor emeritus of business at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, said that the enterprises are supposed to maximize profits if they look at the economic textbooks, to scale up their size, growth, and market rate. But other companies such as Ichiwa operate with entirely different principles.
"Their No. 1 priority is carrying on. Each generation is like a runner in a relay race. What's important is passing the baton," Matsuoka added.
Japan is a home for more than 33,000 with at least 100 years of history, more than 40% of the world's total as per a study by the Tokyo-based Research Institute of Centennial Management. The country is an old-business superpower that has more than 3,100 businesses running for at least two centuries.
The businesses, known as "shinise," are a source of fascination and pride. Business management books revealed the secrets of their success and the complete travel guides devoted to them. Ichiwa is one of the samples of most of the old businesses that are small and family-run enterprises that offer traditional goods and services.
But Nintendo is among Japan's most famous companies, which started making playing cards 131 years ago.
Ms.Hasegawa said that a business can't chase profits only to survive for a millennium. A business should have a higher purpose, in which Ichiwa was a religious calling, serving the shrine's travelers. Those values or family precepts guided many companies' business decisions through generations.
These companies support the community and strive to make inspiring products, and look after their workers. Doing one thing and doing it well is what Ichawa aims for, a very Japanese approach to business.
Ichiwa declined many opportunities to expand, such as the most recent request from Uber Eats to start online delivery. Mochi is the only item on Ichiwa's menu. You will be politely offered the choice of roasted green tea if you want something to drink.
According to the World News Era, because the owners could not find a successor, some companies have closed. Ms.Hasegawa admits that she feels the pressure of the shop's history sometimes. Even if the business doesn't earn much, everyone in the family was warned that "as long as one of us was still alive, we needed to carry on," Ms. Hasegawa said.
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