1000 years before Australia was discovered, or America passed the Declaration of Independence, Fujiwara Mahito, son of an aid to the 38th Emperor of Japan, founded an inn.
52 generations later, Fujiwara’s family still runs Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, the oldest company in the world. They are supported by a small but dedicated staff, many of whom have taken on the roles once held by elder members of their own families.
For upwards of $400AUD a night, guests stay in traditional Japanese rooms adjacent to the hot springs, which are open 24 hours, and are treated to dishes featuring seasonal ingredients hunted and gathered from the surrounding hills.
It’s easy to see why the onsen has been so popular for so long, but it is not alone. A study held by the Bank of Korea in 2008 revealed that the majority of businesses that had ran for over 200 years operated in Japan.
Is it merely coincidence, you ask?
The Japanese word omotenashi means hospitality but, of late, has also come to represent the unique style of selfless service that the country is celebrated for.
Omotenashi is the basis for Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan’s longevity, along with the other nine Japanese hotels that have remained open for 800+ years. From samurai to the modern tourist, the staff of the hot spring are selfless in ensuring their guests are treated like gods, their every wish fulfilled without them even needing to say a word.
It’s the kind of principle that business owners hoping to establishing a long-lasting company could, and should, be applying to their own endeavours.
The onsen has stayed small and true to its founder and, just as importantly, its guests. Where others of its kind have met ruin in an attempt to expand, Fujiwara’s heirs aren’t concerning themselves with money.
The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is about service; meaningful service that engages clients, and proves a desire to meet their needs. Considering the average lifespan of a modern company is a mere 15 years, surely this has never mattered more.