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Japan has 33k businesses at least a century old (www.bbc.com)
536 points by kawera 5 months ago | hide | past | web | 261 comments | favorite





Do you remember Ship of Theseus? The thought experiment about if a ship which has been fully rebuilt bit by bit is it still the same thing?

Japan appears consistent in saying, yes, rebuilding or swapping out components keeps the identity. You see this attitude in "Japan's oldest temple, burned to the ground and rebuilt every 20 years". In the west we might argue that burning a building and rebuilding, would count as a new building.

Similar in Japan's family business the lineage can be preserved by adopting a adult man capable of continuing the business. It needs not be common, but it does serve to ensure family businesses will not end due to a failed marriage or lack of kids. In the west this would just come across as giving your business away to another person, yet in Japan it is considered a valid continuation of the family.

I do not think this is the single biggest reason Japan has such old businesses, but I think it is a key tool which has preserved many.


One of my favorite YouTube channels, Sampson Boat Co, is doing just that: a young shipwright is rebuilding the classic sailing yacht Tally Ho piece by piece, in a modest workshop by the sea up in Oregon. It will be all new by the time he’s done, minus some hardware, but he has never lost continuity with the original hull.

This is just how wooden boats are, whether you do it bit by bit, or as a big project, eventually you replace just about all of it every 100 years or so.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg-_lYeV8hBnDSay7nmphUA


Thank you for this. Occasionally you find gems like this on YouTube. One of my favourite channels is Nik Rijavec's, who is building a house from scratch (so not a rebuild). There is something really pure and real about the way he makes his video, and is not only about the woodworking: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMjAl_0yeKwUAQ2A3tQFcnA

Craft youtube is the best

>This is just how wooden boats are, whether you do it bit by bit, or as a big project, eventually you replace just about all of it every 100 years or so.

If you replace one specific part of the shit(Keel), it is by law a new ship. It needs to be accredited again if it is to be used commercially.


Reminds me of a story from a morning radio show. Guy calls in to say how he "legally" stole a car. Steals expensive car, strips it, abandons frame. Frame is collected and put up for auction. Thief buys bare frame and puts all the stripped parts back on.

It is definitely car theft. This is just a way of getting a clean (-ish) title for it afterwards. In the USA, it will still be a salvage title.

It is definitely car theft. But...if he claimed that he parked the car in this neighborhood and came back to find it stripped he could conceivably get away with it.

That's an interview I would like to listen to


I wonder how this is legal. I mean you might not be held accountable for car theft anymore, but being prosecuted for normal theft is still possible, right?

It's definitely still car theft. They just avoided getting caught.

As someone who used to work around the kind of people and organizations who own vintage (like 1960s on down) wooden boats I assure you almost nobody except the museum nonprofits that own restored/replica tall ships cares in the slightest about having proper government papers to accompany your new keel. It's often actively avoided in practice.

A lot of times the chain of custody and the history is what makes a boat valuable or interesting and government recognition of the new boat is the difference between the original and the replica in a lot of people's eyes because without that recognition there is one boat and with it there is two, a real one and a replica. Sometimes people just work done right and if the hassle of creating a "new" vessel in the eyes of the government can be reasonable avoided it will be (but this is rare reason, most of these people would rather buy a different boat, nobody does that kind of work on a boat that isn't historically interesting or of sentimental value).

It's common (as common as something can be in a niche part of a wealthy people's hobby) to have a boat in crap shape and park it in a shop, deconstruct it enough to take critical measurements and then rebuild it in the adjacent bay starting from the keel using all new material and then reinstall all the original fittings, hardware, etc, etc, off the original boat.

So yeah, you're "supposed" to re-title the boat with a new title in the same way that you're "supposed" to drive 55mph on a four lane interstate highway. In my observation the fraction of people who do what they're "supposed" to is about similar and those people tend to be motivated by special circumstances.

I assume commercial vessels follow the letter of the law but you don't exactly see a lot of commercial vessels getting keel repairs short of scrapping the vessel (or selling it overseas) and buying a new one.


Is this a western or US based law?

I would like to know too. Maritime law is fascinating. It's by nature an international affair, yet it still manages to be convoluted by borders.

That is one absolutely amazing job. Wonder what his timetable looks like.

He's two years away from launching, and has been for at least two years now (this is Leo's joke, not me criticising his project)

Hehe, a bit like fusion then. Well, here's to hoping that he gets it completed in his lifetime and that he gets to take her out on the maiden voyage and that all works out well. It is an incredible undertaking, I just watched some of his joinery videos, him doing stuff 'without getting too fancy about it' is workmanship level that I can only aspire to and know that I'll never reach it.

I think he's probably pretty close to the actual two year mark at this point. The bulk of the really big, heavy, structural stuff is done (getting it reframed was a big milestone). Still tons to do, obviously, but an increasingly large percentage of the remaining work is stuff that can be done efficiently by one person.

Episode 38 was about as real as it gets for me. We all know somebody, somebody's father, or somebody's uncle with a similar passion for woodworking, equally similar "digit reduction," same explanation, "yeah, stupid mistake, my fault," and a new respect for the tools of the trade.

Thank you for the link.


Wait, he lost a finger in the episode? Or it was about how he hurt himself during the work?

Either way -- whoa.


1/2" (or more) off the tip of his finger. Then, after an overt warning and short delay to let you get ready -- showed it.

At one time I worked with a guy who had lost the index and middle fingers of his left hand. He used to raise it up and say "peace!" Then laugh and put a cigarette in between what remained. Great guy to work with but as you say -- whoa.


I'm glad to hear of another follower! Do you also follow SV Seeker? Ignoring a recent stunt, it's been a really interesting process to follow. So many skills go into boat building.

I do, and Acorn to Arabella! Definitely learn a lot from each. Leo is amazing with volunteers and creating a collaborative atmosphere. Plus beautiful joinery. Doug dispenses the life wisdom and the metalwork side. Steve and Alex show you the whole process, tree to boat, and the day to day of what it takes to make progress. Love all three channels.

To 'not lose continuity' you only have to keep one piece. Save the compass from the original, keep it in your pocket as you build, and is it 'the same boat'?

Washington, not that it changes your point.

I lived in an old, converted GE lightbulb factory. I doubt the management around back in 1912 would recognize the company today.

Imagine explaining that GE would make a thing called a “jet” engine that would let people fly between continents in a few hours. Or that they’d be building power plants that worked by splitting atoms. And then tell all the workers that all light bulbs they’re making will be made in China instead.

By this Ship of Theseus reasoning it would seem that GE is not the same company it was when they were making incandescent bulbs in 1920s Oakland.


Well, in 1912, jet-engine-powered aircraft and atomic energy would not seem like far-fetched ideas. Certainly not to educated research engineers at GE, anyway. People routinely underestimate how technologically advanced the world was prior to WW1. Aerospace was advancing rapidly, and chemistry was quite well understood in 1912. A jet engine requires precision manufacturing but otherwise is not a complex idea. Radiation had already been studied for over a decade, and the concept of splitting an atom and harnessing the radiation to heat water would not seem like completely alien technology to people who understood chemistry.

Fission was discovered more than 25 years later. Nuclear power was pretty far fetched in 1912.

The parent comment implies these things would follow the old "seems like magic" trope. They would not seem like magic if you explained these concepts to (educated) people of the time.

I did not read that comment in that way. But I think you'd need to explain for a pretty long time to get engineers to believe your story of nuclear fission power plants. In 1912 we didn't even know about neutrons and protons.

That wasn't when it was discovered, that was just the first practical implementation. The theory side was developed earlier. The Manhattan project was an engineering problem.

Saying it was just an engineering problem is really understating the level of theory and experiment had to happen at the same time. It was a huge scientific and engineering endeavor that happened simultaneously. Some good books that go into the crazy intricacies are American Prometheus and The Making of the Atomic Bomb if you are interested.

I'm reasonably sure that fission was discovered by Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner sometime in the late 1930s, few years after Fermi accidentally split the atom without realizing it.

Now imagine being a worker at Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd and 14 centuries ago you told them that in the 21st century they would build skyscrapers...

Oh, and that the 21st century is a way of counting centuries of the west, that was just being invented around that time, that would be implemented in Japan about 4 centuries later


I don't know if that would be so unimaginable. The pyramid of Giza is taller than many skyscrapers.

This is true. What is most impressive about skyscrapers is not how tall they are, but how thin they are.

It would be unimaginable in Japan 14 centuries ago.

The first western style skyscraper was built in 1890 and demolished in 1923.

But Japan had pyramids long before that, there are speculations that the underwater pyramids of Yonaguni could be the remains of a civilization 5 thousands years old


Note that steam turbines share a lot with jet engines & have been in wide use in 1912, in powerplants and many major warships.

But in the West, even if you just gave your business away to another person who continued to run it, we would still consider that the same business.

Indeed, the business would continue. The issue is that in the west business owners would not see the merit in just giving a business away for the sake of the age ticking up.

In the west the business would get sold and merged. Only in Japan does the adoption make it a family or lineage thing.


> Only in Japan does the adoption make it a family or lineage thing.

No. Every culture worldwide accepts adoption. A child, grandchild, nephew, etc, continuing a business keeps the business in the family. Whether the child is adopted or not, and regardless of the age of adoption.


You’re not understanding the difference: in most of the world, businesses are carried on because there’s some financial value derived from it, not for the thing itself. Family businesses do exist, and do get passed down, but if the owners of the business don’t have any natural heirs, they’ll wrap it up or sell it. That’s normal.

In Japan, the longevity of the thing has a value of its own, so much so that they’ve invented adult “adoptions”, simply to keep an old business going. The business could be mediocre and barely profitable, but if it’s 300 years old, they’ll find a way to keep that line going.

Maybe they exist, but I’m not aware of any other culture that has taken up the practice of adopting adult males to ensure that a family business remains “family”.


I agree but I think regardless of profitability keeping small/medium businesses around is not just the for the longevity bragging rights. Some of these businesses preserve arts, techniques, handcrafts, recipes etc that might have otherwise been lost. And there is something to be said for street level neighborhood character created by these stores.

Adult adoptions to pass on family businesses large and small are somewhat common in Germany. Mostly it's used to save on taxes (nobody cares about the difference of sale and that kind of inheritance) however officially this can't be your (only) reason for adoption. That e.g. got the Darboven and Jacobs families into trouble who wanted to merge their coffee dynasties by adult adoption.

Ancient China also had this kind of tradition.

> regardless of the age of adoption

Are adult adoptions common at all?


Becoming a son-in-law or daughter-in-law certainly counts in this context.

Pretty common to save tax on inheritance I'd say.

it is quite common in the part of India where I come from.

The relentless attack on the family in the West may also be related

Huh?

Sure but you would't then advertise it as having been in the family for a thousand years.

The article is about century+ old businesses in general, of which family-run ones are a subset.

The article doesn't mention temples being burned down at all.

But you might still say "family run for a thousand years"

more as ad advertisement slogan though. I've never seen someone in the west adopt another adult just to authentically continue a legacy (outside of European monarchies maybe). There is a sense of tradition to these Japanese companies that one doesn't see so often outside of Japan.

Romans used to do adult adoptions. Off the top of my hat, I clearly remember that Cesar adopted Brutus, his killer, as an adult.

Thoroughly agree.

Even in the West we consider adoption to be legitimate.

Considering it is illegal in the UK and frowned upon by the IRS, it leads me to think you are confusing adoption of children with the adoption of adult men.

Note how often these adult men are being adopted along with marrying the daughter of the family. I dare say outside of Japan such an arrangement would be considered weird.


> being adopted along with marrying the daughter of the family.

How does that work? They become both husband and brother to the same person?


Yes, with the proviso that everyone understands that it's different and the taboo against incest doesn't kick in.

In practice what it means is that the couple adopts the family name of the wife, not the husband, which is the name associated with the family business that he's taking over.


Doesn't America have a history of adoption of adult men in gay couples? That allowed them to secure the legal rights of family members before gay marriage was legal. I remember some stories of it being a problem when gay marriage became legal, and they faced legal difficulties if they wanted to marry their adopted father or son.

Of adult males for the sole purpose of keeping a business as a "family" business?

Not always though, sometimes we say they've 'sold out' or are 'not the same'.

E.g. Fuller's (London brewer) now owned by Japanese conglomerate, Church (Northampton shoes, was still in the family) bought by Prada.


Only because the new owner tends not to have a sense of continuity or respect, and it usually is different.

The Churches clearly regretted selling after seeing what Prada did to their company (made it a parody of itself), so they now run Cheaney (a rival) and arguably make better shoes than Church's ever did. Still a sad story though.

> Japan appears consistent in saying, yes, rebuilding or swapping out components keeps the identity. You see this attitude in "Japan's oldest temple, burned to the ground and rebuilt every 20 years". In the west we might argue that burning a building and rebuilding, would count as a new building.

That is a wrong example/comparison. Even in the west rebuilding an heritage is not considered as a new building.

In Europe rebuilding after a catastrophic event like fire is sometimes a requirement. Would you consider restoring Notre Dame as new building? I would not think so. What about Sagrada Familia? They are still not finished with the building. What about the Cologne dom? They are still not finished with the building.


Interesting examples I have seen are The Frauenkirche in Dresden (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche) and The Bratislava Castle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bratislava_Castle), both complete rebuilds (and both were ruins for a long time before they were rebuild). I have an uneasy relationship with these buildings. On the one hand, I understand the appeal of old buildings, and that people want them to be around again. On the other hand, I find it weird to build a building today that looks like it is an old one (Historismus?). Somehow, these buildings feel like lies to me, like a Disneyland or Las Vegas version of history. So I guess my (German) view is indeed quite different from the Japanese perspective described by GP.

Your view is not the German view vs the Japanese view, it's a German view vs a German view. There's many buildings in Germany which are rebuilds or being rebuilt, not for external tourists (i.e. Disneyland/Las Vegas) but for love of heritage. (I'm not accusing you of believing it, but you're perhaps entertaining it.)

But I don't understand this view. I like the design of old buildings. Why can't we build them again? It's just putting rocks on rocks. Why is it less authentic then putting rocks on rocks according to an uglier, isolating design?

In any case, we're constantly maintaining old buildings. Who knows how many parts of the buildings have been removed and put back, so they can replace some weak part inside?

I think it's highly unlikely that they will be lies. I went to see some old buildings in Indonesia, and they very happily said "we needed to make this construction more stable and restore it, so we removed all the stones, rebuilt the foundations, and put them all back in place".

No-one is lying.

(And if there is some problem, the problem is that modern architects always want to abandon tradition and build ugly buildings that look tacky in 50 years. Humans are capable of showing creativity and following tradition.)


Some churches have been built as a 300 year long project adhering to an original design. The materials and methods have been modified to fit the requirements as new challenges have been discovered along it's construction. The original creator long dead, these monuments to creating something of enduring value stand tall as symbols of a 300 year success.

When the church falls over and needs a total repair it changes. Today we can build those same churches much quicker, cheaper and with higher accuracy. We can pump out those buildings in a decade that used to take 300yrs. Replacing the building with modern industry changes the meaning of the building to reflect how much a society can pour into maintaining the past. The original achievement fell apart when the bricks gave way.

People who say it still represents the same thing it did when it was built are not telling the full truth.


> Notre Dame as new building? I would not think so. What about Sagrada Familia? They are still not finished with the building. What about the Cologne dom?

The last two are very modern buildings

Notre dame was rebuilt a few times, but never completely

We do "conservation of cultural heritage" in the west and we have been doing it for centuries

The "Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano" Is

> a 600-year-old organization that was established to supervise the construction of the Cathedral of Milan (the "Duomo"). The organization is still active and involved with the maintenance, preservation, and restoration of the cathedral.


I used to be bothered by reconstructions, especially ones rebuilt in the 20th century. But since then I've realized just how fragile and transient buildings can be, and how much effort it takes to maintain the ones we've got. If it takes modern rebuilding to bring back the experience of being in or near a unique piece of architecture, then that's better than the alternative.

Oh also, I apologies for double replying, but I really don't like the idea it's German vs Japanese.

Since I was in Trier after Christmas, and learnt they have the oldest university in Germany, except for all the times it didn't exist. It's not claimed "Trier had the first university in Germany", but "Trier has the oldest university in Germany".

Others dispute this claim, since they want the claim for the university their heart inclines towards, but Germans - surely a species of Westerner - are still capable of entertaining and uttering such claims of continuity-through-discontinuity.


If Notre Dame had been raised to the ground by the fire and then rebuilt then the answer is yes, that would have been considered a new building. Downtown Warsaw and the “old” Dresden are also comprised of new buildings which have been made to look the same as those that were demolished during WW2.

I cannot say anything about Warsaw. I was never there.

I can add to Dresden and Nuremberg. Both of them where nearly destroyed and rebuild. But the rebuild is not an exact rebuild. It is new and modern buildings.

But there are exceptions like the Frauenkirche in Dresden and alike buildings here in Nuremberg. They are almost exactly rebuild in the name of conserving heritage. Yes, they are also rebuild or even retrofitted with new things like electric and plumbing. But that doesn't mean they are new buildings.


Does Warsaw and Dresden continue? Or are they new cities, since their buildings were destroyed?

As you said, their building were destroyed, not the cities themselves. The cities were damaged and restored, just like a classic car.

I think the GP made a great point but missed a key detail -

This attitude is reflected in their homes, also. (I'm talking about sub-urban or rural, not metropolitan) They tend to build their homes to last around 20-30 years, then they'll knock them down and rebuild them. But they would still refer to it as the same family home for [x] decades.

source: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/nov/16/japan-reusabl...


I believe the Dom in Cologne was finished and is now being maintained by a staff of more than 100 stone masons etc... so many parts of it have been replaced over the years. I always found it fascinating to see how shining and light the restored parts looks compared to the black surface of the older parts. I quite like the dark surface, it gives the building a brooding power that I love. It’s my favorite church, but I am inescapably biased as I was born in Cologne.

It is also one of my favorite cathedrals, though perhaps you can tell me: why is there a labyrinth on the floor of the stairs leading to the crypt? The labyrinth in Chartes is larger and more famous, but the one on Cologne doesn't call much attention to itself, in a cathedral which dominates the city.

Japan and "the west" (broadly speaking) do have different norms about what counts as continuity, but there is a lot of ship-of-Theseus kind of stuff that goes on in the west too. Two categories come to mind offhand. One, there have been restoration projects on ancient Greek and Roman buildings that have involved completely dismantling them, stone by stone, and then reconstructing them from the original stones. And two, it is fairly common for independent shops and restaurants to advertise things such as, "[City's] oldest restaurant, serving you since 1833", but since 1833, the restaurant has been sold three times to new owners, changed location twice, and completely overhauled its menu many times.

This thought experiment is neither just a thought nor an experiment. This is the reality of life - every single cell in the body of a plant or animal is replaced every few months. Essentially, talking about the physical body, we are not what we were a few months ago.

EDIT: Agreed, a few types of brain cells do not get replaced, but everything else does. My point still stands. Physically, we are not what we were a few months ago.


> This is the reality of life - every single cell in the body of a plant or animal is replaced every few months.

This is laughably false.


Outside of some cells in the brain all the cells do get replaced. But there are some that have lifespans of over a year (white blood cells) and some only a few days (cells in a human colon)

Osteocytes in your bone have a half life of 25 years, and many of them don't get "replaced" even after they die.

It's not just the reality of life, it's the essense of reality. Everything "real" is looks like the Ship of Theseus and if something doesn't look like that ship, it's not real.

Do you have a source for your claim?

Not sure it's on the GP to provide a source but here's one:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/life-span-of-human...


I like how HN downvotes when asking for a “source”.

I was merely expecting a “this is false because of X”. Rather than “this is false”

I guess we all have our biases.


Does the person he's replying to?

The complexity is mind boggling. Physically, we are not what we were a few months ago. And what exactly is physicality?

People were commenting that the idea that every cell is replaced in a living organism is 'laughable'. Brain cells and osteocytes were cited as examples of cells that are never replaced.

However, I still think, and more strongly than ever, that brain cells and osteocytes can be examples of unchanging cells if an only if it is proven beyond a shadow of doubt that every single atom constituting such cells remains intact during the lifetime of such cells.

Since the human body is subjected to a lot of physical stress and damage and repair is continuous, it is possible that damaged brain cells or osteocytes get replaced with new ones. Need to read more about this, though.


You think every brain cell is replaced every few months? Please delete this comment and read a biology textbook.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16495940?access_num=1649...

Adult neurogenesis or brain plasticity is a fact. Skin cells, blood cells and all types of cells have a finite lifespan - a few days to a few months.


Just because neurogenesis exists, it most definitely does not follow that "every single cell in the body of a plant or animal is replaced every few months", which is what you said.

Osteocytes in human bone can live up to 50 years.


Can live up to 50 years. OK. What happens when they do not? Does the body not regenerate them? Various kinds of stress can cause them to not live that long. It is not as black and white.

Are you saying that a brain cell is immortal through one’s life?

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2013/02...

"New neurons are made in just two parts of the brain—the hippocampus, involved in memory and navigation, and the olfactory bulb, involved in smell (and even then only until 18 months of age). Aside from that, your neurons are as old as you are and will last you for the rest of your life. They don’t divide, and there’s no turnover."


Yea some of them are. Obviously not every cell in the brain, but some types are not replaced.

I think this applies to most atoms in the body over time: https://stevegrand.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/where-do-those-d...

But while it applies to many cells over varied lengths of time (up to many years), it doesn't apply to all cells.

https://www.livescience.com/33179-does-human-body-replace-ce...

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/does-body-replace-itself-s...

So the idea does apply but not exactly as you claim and it's definitely not absolute, even for atoms, let alone cells.


I am not a biologist. One way or the other the body is in a constant state of flux. Even if 90% of body is regenerated over a period of time, it is still a great wonder.

“You can never step into the same river twice.”

Bit random, but your post reminded me of this moment of British comedy: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BUl6PooveJE

Was thinking of posting this as well. I have used "Triggers Broom" example in a contract negotiation involving spares.

Classic comedy works on so many levels.


>In the west we might argue that burning a building and rebuilding, would count as a new building.

Interestingly enough, by that notion most churches (at least in towns) in the former Roman empire date back to Antiquity. But we usually only date the date of the main standing structure as the building's birthday.


I think western cultures would also consider it the same business. There are a lot of family owned companies, but to customers that fact doesn't matter that much.

To be honest, I dearly prefer their model of slow incremental adaptation compared to a gig economy, that is sadly established in many western nations to a larger degree. I would even go so far as to say that it could severely limit long term prosperity growth.

Some say Japan has some problems on that account. I think we should look at it 50 years later an see who is laughing.


I talk to Japanese workers in various domestic and foreign firms operating in Japan almost every day. Consensus on this topic seems to be that the Japanese approach is favoured in times where goals are clearly understood and agreed upon. In such circumstances Japan's superlative skills in quality, incremental improvement, planning and harmonious group-work will come to the fore.

At other times, including perhaps these last 2-3 decades, it is more valuable to try and mostly fail in the interest of discovery. The Long Tail, above the Bell Curve. At such times as these Japan generally just holds and waits. For instance, the Edo period lasted 250 years, with very little change. Meanwhile, from 1600, Europe and the New World were changing like gangbusters.

>> I think we should look at it 50 years later...

Fifty years is a fairly long time to make predictions, but I'd argue that you'll only see Japan having re-emerged as leader in 2070, should a clear new order have already become apparent. If not, they'll certainly still be waiting patiently with serious intent.


> You see this attitude in "Japan's oldest temple, burned to the ground and rebuilt every 20 years".

Thats only in Ise. Dont make generalizations. For about every other old building in Japan something burning down is a tragedy, even if they try to rebuild it afterwards. For example Osaka castle is technically standing now but nobody is fooled by the fact that its an empty shell compared to the original building. That is precisely why Himeji castle is so precious in comparison.


What generalization? There is no other "japan's oldest temple" which is being raized every 20 years.

> Japan appears consistent in saying, yes, rebuilding or swapping out components keeps the identity.

That generalization.


> Japan's oldest temple, burned to the ground and rebuilt every 20 years

It's a shrine, not a temple, it's torn down, not burned down, and whether it's the oldest is a matter of whether you believe the legends.


Radio Yerevan was asked: "Is it correct that Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev won a luxury car at the All-Union Championship in Moscow?"

Radio Yerevan answered: "In principle, yes. But first of all it was not Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev, but Vassili Vassilievich Vassiliev; second, it was not at the All-Union Championship in Moscow, but at a Collective Farm Sports Festival in Smolensk; third, it was not a car, but a bicycle; and fourth he didn't win it, but rather it was stolen from him."


Somehow your post seems like the opposite case of the comment you're referring to. The parent comment points out some inaccuracies, that while annoying, don't really change the basic point of the original statement. Whereas your example is a case where so many details are so wrong that the basic idea is completely changed.

> Japan's oldest temple, burned to the ground and rebuilt every 20 years

I suspect that there is a degree of translation loss in those quotes.

In general if you ask someone about this they'll indeed reply that their temple is 1,000 years old (example). Then if you ask whether this means that this building right here is 1,000 years old they'll may very naturally reply that no, they rebuild it every so often.

I'm thinking that the concept of e.g. 'temple' might be different than the actual buildings the temple is made of.

Now, sometimes the buildings really are hundreds of years old.


Which isn't really different then churches, which may be older than the church building. "The church was founded in 1890. The present building was opened in 1950, and the old building is now used as a hall." Sometimes you might even see "The church was built in 1890. A new building was opened in 1950, but they burned down in 1984. The present building was finished in 1986."

Interesting. The building is repaired, new roof and windows and floor and ceiling, soon only the frame is 'original'. But the building is not the 'business'.

Every day, the product on the shelf is new. New customers go through the door. Even the product formula or process may change.

Generations pass, and entirely different people are standing in that building selling those (changed) products. The people may have some genetic similarity to those that stood there before. But any human would have substantially the same cell chemistry, which is many millions of times more in common than a particular strand of molecules. So won't any human be enough?

The definition of a 'business' is a human idea. Its not rooted in physics. So if we want to say a business is old or continuous, I guess go ahead.


Similar in Japan's family business the lineage can be preserved by adopting a adult man capable of continuing the business.

This is often put out as something uniquely Japanese, and perhaps in modern times it is, but the Roman Empire used to to this pretty regularly as well: nominating heirs by adopting adult men.


This also applies to handing down real estate. The house in Japan my mother was born in is over 100 years old. My grandfather died while married to his 3rd wife (the 2nd wife was my grandmother) and she did not have any sons with him so the workaround is to have a proxy man who is like a visible head of the household but make no mistake, she runs the place in all aspects. In essence she adopted a husband (I don't think they have amorous relations) to continue the line through a male so to speak.

I think in the west we would argue that burning down and rebuilding a building constitutes a new building but burning down and rebuilding a named location keeps it still the same location, example: Notre Dame.

I don't think Notre Dame completely burned down though?

Ok, I suppose I went too quickly with my example although I thought the principle would be familiar, namely that a named place can be rebuilt and it is still the named place.

Better example - well here but it's in Danish https://www.kristeligt-dagblad.dk/kirke-tro/marmorkirkens-s%...

of course the principle is not universal, for example old St. Peter's Basilica and new st. Peter's Basilica are at the same location and of course are distinguished from each other by the descriptive old or new.


It didn't. The roof was burned down, but otherwise the building (made of stone) remains.

Unless Theseus sells his ship, it will stay his ship, even if he replaces every part. Still the ship of Theseus, as it is a matter of ownership, not of identity.

If the changes are small and gradual enough, identity is preserved, like in atoms in our brains, or an beloved antique car.

(Slightly, but not completely sarcastic)

They've learned plenty from the United States, but they haven't learned that in order to succeed, others must fail. They should be trying harder to make these businesses succeed hard or fail. After all, life isn't about living - it's about how much we can accumulate at the cost of others.

They should also learn the Unites Statesian way of "going out of business" for the purpose of selling the old company's assets to a newly create company for pennies on the dollar while defaulting on debt and loans. Heck - many Hollywood companies do this from one film to the next!

Gah! These Japanese people are amateurs!


Oh boy did I have a comment brewing for you, before I realized you were being sarcastic!

There is something refreshing about the feeling of permanence I got when I was in Japan. There is so much old infrastructure that's still working, because it's maintained. In the west, we assume we'll be replacing pretty much everything within 5-10 years so why bother with upkeep, and who cares if it doesn't even function that well when you built it.


Except for housing which in Japan is only expected to last for 30 yrs and who's value is like a car, the moment you buy a house it's now a "used house" and from their the price goes down.

This is primarily for the large cities and surrounding suburbs. Smaller cities and rural areas have many homes with significantly longer lifespans.

But totally not the case in American cities, where century plus old apartment buildings and houses are totally normal

In Australia, homes for the median house are tightly bound to land value. The house on the plot almost doesn't matter. The expectation is that land value will always go up as well. It means you can find used, run down houses selling for the same price as a brand new house next door. It's really strange. The value of housing isn't at all tied to it's usage as a home, but as a vehicle for investment.

They also build houses insanely fast too.

Pretty negative? Water and sewage infrastructure can last 100 years in the USA. The company that makes commercial pumps for cities is still around, and called upon to recreate 80-year-old pumps to replace ones still in use under New York streets.

Our electrical grid is unparalleled in the world. Our phone/internet.

These things are not so wonderful in other countries (when they even have them at all).

What infrastructure, exactly, in the US is not functioning well?


I mean, I'm a big fan and resident of the US, but it's accurate to say we're not doing the best job with our infrastructure.

We have a lot of trouble with aging bridges: https://www.artba.org/2018/01/29/54000-american-bridges-stru...

We have a lot of trouble with aging water systems: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378...

https://bipartisanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BPC-...

A lot of the infrastructure that were built around the population boom post WWII are reaching the end of their lifespans and we don't have a plan and budget (despite 'infrastructure week') to get these upgraded.


That was my point. We built well back then.

Everybody seems to be excited to point out, that infrastructure investment is at a low now. E.g. Obama's 'shovel-ready' money didn't go to sewer and water, since those are 'invisible'. So pointless visible projects like cables-down-the-freeway-media got built instead.

This is of course obvious. This thread has become a place to vent about that, which is fine.


That decidedly was not your point. You added that point in a followup after someone conveniently fleshed it out for you, but try to read your original comment in a vacuum and find any trace of it.

The point that was sent across in your comment was that we have an “unparalleled” power grid (and Internet, apparently, which I could also easily take apart) and we should feel fortunate because outside of America, things like that are worse or nonexistent. Aside from the mild xenophobia and casual dismissal of cultures not your own, the overarching point you built out of this was: there isn’t really a problem and our infrastructure is world-leading. The words are right there for all of us to see, including you, and I feel on pretty firm ground about how I interpreted (and attempted to engage) your thinking. I even answered your call to action directly, pointed out counterexamples exactly as you requested, and you didn’t even bother to click the links. At all.

I don’t know why you’re calling this second point obvious (it certainly isn’t) or going after people passive aggressively who engaged you on the point you originally made, by saying those who disagree are venting. It’s okay to be wrong. Pretty much the entire comment was Americentric and a denial of reality with a backhand for the rest of the planet. It was wrong. That’s fine. Moving the goalposts like this just makes the whole thing stupid. Try this out: “You’re right, there might be a problem. I disagree with you on scope, but perhaps we can meet in the middle.” It isn’t hard. It won’t hurt.


https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/nbi/no10/condition18.cfm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Mississippi_River_bridge

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.businessinsider.com/asce-gi...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_water_crisis

Politicians like cutting ribbons in their district. They do not like investing in maintenance, and operators are left to scrape together budgets to make things work. They often make bad calls because they’re forced to.

This has been known for several decades.

The electrical grid in San Jose failed dramatically because someone, yet to be identified, hit a substation off 101 with a rifle. Power engineers constantly warn about incoming failures if we don’t invest in security and maintenance, and power grid security has recently become a Homeland Security concern. The power grid in California has evolved into literally killing people, and they have to turn it off when it’s windy. Yeah. Unparalleled. Your mildly xenophobic subtext of knocking power grids in non-American contexts is noted, but throwing stones and all.

I struggle to imagine a scenario where all of this is news to you.


I don't live in CA, so local news there doesn't get very far.

Well then it’s good I offered three major incidents, two outside of California, that received worldwide attention, but thanks for the detailed engagement on my point.

The California power grid fires were on the television in a pub in northern England last time I was there, not to put too fine a point on it. Speaking of, you should visit Europe and get back to me on infrastructure, especially continental transit. I’m an American and even I’m tired of Amerisuperiority, because it’s that kind of willful ignorance that drives said underinvestment.


>Our electrical grid is unparalleled in the world

Our electrical grid is actually in a terrible state[0], and allegedly just one solar storm away from total failure. Our ancient power lines regularly cause forest fires and power companies don't seem to be held accountable.

Some 9.1% of bridges in the U.S. are in a dangerous state of disrepair[1]. Most major cities in the U.S. are known for having terrible roads under constant maintenance (not sure how roads in dense cities fair in other nations, but things seemed much more efficient in Korea).

It's pretty bad all around [2] and honestly I don't understand why no recent president has committed to a massive infrastructure project. It would likely have bipartisan support, create millions of semi-permanent, semi-technical jobs across the country, and simultaneously act as a public welfare project and a very much needed modernization/repair effort with people being paid to perform necessary work on massive scale. Not to get political, but it's one of the few things I like about Bernie, since he's at least mentioned such a commitment.

0.https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/us-electrical-gri...

1. https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/bridges/

2. https://www.businessinsider.com/asce-gives-us-infrastructure...


The US doesn't actually have a national grid. It has three, an east one, a west one, and a Texas one.

The US phone system is plagued by robocalls at a far higher rate than is common in Europe, and phone and internet tend to cost much more due to local quasi-monopolies rather than a functioning market. People are always complaining about Comcast.


There's no doubt American built a huge amount of infrastructure. I'm personally from Australia, so I can't comment much more than that. I made a huge generalization in my original post, that much I admit. I'm sure it can be different in different towns, counties, states etc, let alone countries.

PS Happy to answers any questions about Tokyo life as an engineer/entrepreneur, just reply to my comment.

I get where you're coming from, but you can make the same one-sided joke post about Americans.

Having done both...

- started YC backed startup while in SF and worked at Uber for 4 years - in Tokyo for the past 2 years

I honestly think that the outcomes here in Tokyo are much better than in SF. Yes, incomes are lower, but your QAPP (quality-adjusted purchasing power) is significantly higher, at all income levels - https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/08/21/commentary/j...


Having a hard time finding clients currently as a digital agency in Tokyo targeting foreign companies, any ideas on what to try next?

> I get where you're coming from, but you can make the same one-sided joke post about Americans.

He _IS_ joking about Americans :-)))


Is it true Japanese companies pay software engineers peanuts compared to USA? How much Japanese do you need to speak to get by?

In general, yes. There are exceptions but in general Japanese tech companies pay very poorly.

For example, Yahoo Japan (still more popular than Google Japan AFAIK) pays collage grads $36k a year starting salary. I think USA Google Interns get ~3x that.

https://about.yahoo.co.jp/hr/job-info/role/0005/#potentialJo...

I know it's just one data point but it's not far from the average. For Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, NEC, Rakuten, etc it will definitely be in the same ballpark. You can probably get 2x that if you have 10 years experience but if you're over 35 you're considered too old to code by many companies.

There are exceptions like maybe Mercari as they are doing well. And western companies, Google, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, pay well.

I have no idea if this is why but I'm guessing one reason is they have a captive market. If your only language is Japanese you can't work anywhere else in the world.


Depends on a company, as everywhere else. Some companies are willing to pay 10M+ annually which is more than enough to live peacefully in not so cheap area.

What kind of company move did you make to tokyo? Work at Google and then do a transfer or a Japanese startup?

In Japan there are plenty of old and young people working arubaito (part time) in the service industry. If you go to Disneyland for example, you can see obaachans (grandma) bringing food from the kitchen to the dining area.

Japan as a country is also hi tech. But it seems that they are not worried about the effect of automation and people losing jobs. There are plenty of jobs that machines still can’t do and the Japanese appreciate handcrafts. A lof of Japanese knives are still handmade. Candies, gifts, a lot of them are handmade.

Granted. Japan is the nation where it is mostly relatively closed compared to other far east Asian nation. They won’t give citizenship easily (around 10 to 20 years), they don’t take influx of immigrants, and they care about Japanese more other than non Japanese. All of this is motivated by the preservation of culture and the Japanese way. Japan would rather have their island sink than opening doors to more immigrants to avoid Eternal September that is plaguing the US and Europe.

More conformity meaning easier for the government in terms of economy, policy, etc. Less troublemakers, less lawyers and lawsuits, less crime. But in order to achieve social conformity Japan doesn’t have to be like China where they monitor and watch everything. Conformity is ingrained in every minds and hearts of the Japanese. That is the Japanese way.


>Granted. Japan is the nation where it is mostly relatively closed compared to other far east Asian nation. They won’t give citizenship easily (around 10 to 20 years), they don’t take influx of immigrants, and they care about Japanese more other than non Japanese. All of this is motivated by the preservation of culture and the Japanese way. Japan would rather have their island sink than opening doors to more immigrants to avoid Eternal September that is plaguing the US and Europe.

You should tell the Japanese lawmakers this ;)

Skilled immigration is now done on a point based system where most white collar working professionals could quality to residency with little effort.

Japanese naturalization is now a 5-10 year process, not 10-20. This is in line with the US process.

The slowing birth rates have resulted in Japan opening up significantly more to immigration and naturalization of these immigrants.


I was never brought up with the national myth of failure but it does explain a lot about how the United States works. Does this imply the need for revolution to fix things? Maybe we could get Japan to liberate us.

Disruption can’t be successful unless people are losing their jobs, pensions or housing. There has to be a cost for progress.

It's interesting about growing older. I don't know if this is a function of aging or a change in how humanity recons time. When I was younger, a century seemed like forever. Now it's just 1920 and we have film, music, audio, books and so on from that time period readily available.

In many ways 1920 doesn't really seem all that far away to me while 1860, 1870, 1880 (a century from when I was a child) seemed to be forever ago.

When I look at film and photos from 1920 I see modern people, people I could see meeting and having relatively modern conversations while when I look at media from the mid 1800s I see ancestors who I share very little with.


When you were in middle school, 1920 was 8 or so lifetimes ago. Now it's closer to only 2-3 lifetimes ago.

I'd also reckon you can more easily relate to people who lived with older technology, having lived pre-internet yourself. When you are young, everything just is, and it's hard to relate with living differently.


I think the world has at least in many ways changed a lot less between 1920 and today than in the preceding century, or even the preceding few decades. WW1 did a lot to yank the world into modernity: large scale assembly line industry, women working outside of the house, US interventionism, social welfare (the 30's technically, at least in the US), not to mention the entire modern geo-political landscape all happened, v or at least we're accelerated by the war. Obviously they didn't all happen exclusively in the few years of the war itself, however the few decades surrounding it we're certainly a tumultuous time.

It seems like if you were to graph the pace of change, there would be a hump around the First World War. I think the coming of the information age is creating another hump, but at the same time it seems like so far, surprisingly little has changed as a result of it.


I think in terms of change, not all centuries are created equal. All things considered, I think the century from 1870-1970 saw more rapid change than any other in history (including 1920-2020). Planet money did a piece the other week about this idea and how economic growth seems to have slowed down never to return to its 20th century levels.

If this idea is true, those in the 1920s share more with us (familiarity with cars, mass media, urbanization) than those just 50 years prior.


Somewhere around her 85th birthday, my grandmother said to me, out of the blue:

"You know in school, in history class, 100 years seems like a long time. It's not really."


Change is slowing down, at least in developed countries. A person from the US of 2020 would fit in right in 1970, and be able to adapt to 1920, but be lost in 1870. A person from 1970 would adapt a little quicker to 1920, but be almost as lost as us in 1870.

But someone from 1870 could easily adapt to any time going back through the 17th century. I don't see how that's evidence of change slowing down, it's rapidly accelerating.

I would guess the parent comment wouldn’t disagree that it had sped up til about 1950 or 1970. But then it has slowed down since. I tend to agree, and that this whole personal computers, web apps, tracking stuff that’s obsessed over here just isn’t that big of deal compared to refrigeration and easy global transportation (to pick 2 from 1850-1950).

> 'I tend to agree, and that this whole personal computers, web apps, tracking stuff that’s obsessed over here just isn’t that big of deal compared to refrigeration and easy global transportation (to pick 2 from 1850-1950).'

, he says non-chalantly, pressing enter to transmit his message instantaneously around the world, which is read by people in many different nations before finally being stumbled upon 10 days later by a man living in the middle of the wilderness in Alabama, who wonders in amazement at the opinion he's just read. How can anyone fail to understand how the entire world has changed overnight, permanently, in astounding and still-unfolding ways, as a result of personal computer technology? It's exactly akin to refrigeration, jet aircraft, etc. in its transformative power. Even more, since it's a communications technology, and that is an agent of change moreso than anything else.

Check this out: about 20 years ago in the late 90s, as a teenager, the thinking at the time was that "y'all" wasn't considered a real word and would actually get you lectured by some people who would tell you it isn't a word. Today it has spread from coast to coast of the USA, to Australia and England, and about 5 years ago I even saw a teenage girl from Africa using the word on Facebook. Holy fuck.

Likewise, "bless your heart" used to be an exclusively Southern phrase. More and more people elsewhere are becoming familiar with it.

"Shit show" used to be exclusively a midwestern term. So was "have a good one." Within the past 5 years these have taken hold here in Alabama and are now common to hear, especially the latter. The Internet did this.

Overnight we went from telephones at the house (with tone dialing, not that far removed from rotary phones), to cell phones in every pocket, to mini-computers everywhere. And we're instantly "used to" it. The world totally changed in the blink of an eye, and nobody even notices how profound the change really is. Even when there's entire disorders linked to the changes--like the phenomenon of cell phone zombies.

Can you imagine a typical person from 1950 trying to understand and fit in to the world of today? Of course we could go back then and kind of blend in, we've seen enough movies to know "how it was." We could cope. But imagine transporting one of those people here today sight unseen and showing them how things are, all the crazy shit that's in the news on a daily basis, the things perceived as normal, I mean just the whole shit show package all at once. How long would it be before he runs screaming back to 1950?


Who the fuck downvoted this post, and what is your issue, asswipe? Seriously. A person can't post a fucking thing on this forum without some pissant downvoting it. Sometimes in mere seconds after posting. Makes one wonder how many downvoting bots are running loose on this forum.

Easy global transport is much more recent than 1950. My grantparents came to Australia by boat in the 1950s, and didn't expect to see their family ever again. Nowadays the flight to Europe is hard, as far as contemporary transport goes, but many professionals could afford to visit annually without any great risk. That's a world changing difference.

This is the exact curve that is described by an academic in a recent episode of planet money https://pca.st/episode/d1397f9e-49f0-425c-8b10-3c4adb039f3f

I think there is certainly an effect of aging and your changing perspective. I have noticed similar shifts in my thoughts, even about shorter time spans. As a child I remember feeling that there was a huge chasm between the WWII era and the jet/space age. Now, I can contemplate my parents' early lives of roughly 1940-1985 versus my own of roughly 1975-2020.

I can imagine how the transitions they experienced through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s may have seemed to them much like how my world evolved in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. While I can surely find some milestone events in my personal life, I do not see stark boundaries I would consider truly different ages/eras for society as a whole. I remember how every recent transition took years and perhaps never completed.

I wonder if certain cultural artifacts and stories in history and pop culture give us a more consistent sense of past eras/ages prior to our own experiences. Things like railroads, electrification, automobiles, film, the great depression, airplanes, films with sound, color film, TV, antibiotics... they all were smeared over many years but we can easily ignore that when talking about the past.


I was born in the seventies, and have looked at a lot of cartoons from the 1920s over the course of my life, what with ending up being in the animation industry for a while. Read a lot of comics from around then too as part of surveying the history of that medium, To me the 1920s always felt like the Remote Past.

I wonder what someone born now will feel about the 1920s once they are old enough to communicate their opinions.


My 8 year old nephew told me my techno playlist sounded like old people's music...

To my daughter "The Fat of the Land" album by The Prodigy is exactly as old as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles to me (number of years between respective album releases and our birth years).

The Fat of the Land is old sounding to me too and I was in my last year's of high school when it came out. I'm talking about Berlin big room techno that came out in the 10s.

I can't remember where i heard this from (it was a podcast) but it was on an economic theory that, if you exclude the internet & computer revolution, humans has not progressed that much in the past 100 years and that we may have entered a period of stagnant growth that may extend a century. Again, internet & computer revolution aside, realistically saying the last "human leap" was the invention of the combustion engine and prior to that, it was the discovery of electricity.

So he proves this out by taking an example of what happens if you hit someone on the head and assuming that person sleeps for a long time, how will he feel out of place in the world. Here are the examples I remembered he used (paraphrasing):

1. If you take someone living in the 1700s, knock them on the head, and have them wake up any time till the mid 1800s, to that person, life feels almost the same even though 100s of years have passed. Sure, maybe there are more buildings, more people, more horses, weapons are more or less the same, etc but essentially life is still familiar.

2. Now take someone living in, lets say 1850, knock them out and have them wake up in 1880. Holy shit, suddenly the world is so much brighter and there are "lights" everywhere. What witchcraft is this?? The world will look so different from what he/she remembers them.

3. Now take that same person living in 1880, hit them on the head again and have him/her wake up 35 years later and it is 1915. HOLY DOUBLE CRAP, what is this new fangle machine on wheels on the streets people are on and where have all the horses gone?? Ok I need to go into the toilet and wash my face...OMG WHAT IS THIS FLUSHING THING AND THIS METAL SPROUT CREATES MY OWN CLEAN RIVER??? Walks to the city and wow, look at all these buildings looking like mountains! And not only that, he/she looks up in the sky and sees gigantic "metal birds"...WTF YOU CAN RIDE THEM AND NOW GET FROM LA TO NY in a couple of hours?? The world will look completely magical to them.

Now here is the interesting thing - if you take someone from 1920s, hit them on our head, and put them in 2020.. that economist surmises that life will look pretty much the same to that person, not unlike scenario (1) where you take someone from 1700s and put them in the 1800s. Vehicles might look a bit more modern, buildings might look a bit more taller or "sleek-er", there are way much more people but essentially, the world hasn't really change much. Oh, there is this new computer & internet thing but that's it.

So yep, it is nothing to do with you. We just happen to live in a time where we have yet to experience a "leap" in invention where life has become completely magical to us. My guess will be, the day space tech becomes a common place and attainable, that will be when the world looks magically different to those of us living today and that generation will feel the same leap as the inhabitants living from 1850~1920.


Sure, excluding two of the biggest revolutions in the entire history of humanity, really makes it seem like we've been doing absolutely nothing. The impact of the semiconductor / integrated circuit can not be overstated. I don't know about the rest of you, but the Internet still seems to be completely magical to me.

Born in 1981, computers and the internet seem mundane to me.

But I thoroughly agree that they are the two (one?) biggest revolution in history.


Born the same year. You clearly haven’t imagined what’s possible. The internet hasn’t happened yet. We are a couple of experiments in. Maybe two of the ten core softwares have been written. The other 8 are just gleams in wild eyes.

The UI layer is all still prototypes. The economic layer, very early prototypes. The programming languages are prototypes. You can tell because <1% of the population can even use them. Imagine what cars or T.V.’s were like at that penetration. We have barely begun.


>You can tell because <1% of the population can even use them. Imagine what cars or T.V.’s were like at that penetration. We have barely begun.

I'd argue that nowadays there are more people that use the internet/smartphone devices than there are people that drive cars or watch TVs.

Internet usage has far overtook both cars and television by now. Nobody cares about programming languages or "UI", just like most people that drive cars really don't care about the internals of the engine.


> Oh, there is this new computer & internet thing but that's it.

This sentence is doing an unbelievable amount of work. I don't think you realize how strange it is that we have instant-speed trans-Atlantic communication that can transmit massive amounts of data. Computers are practically foreign objects to plenty of people born in the 60s, who grew up as they were invented. You don't think someone from 1920, with no prior exposure to them, would think that a smartphone is just a standard part of everyday life?

Not to mention all the other massive changes to society that you ignored. Commercial flights started in the 1920s and are now commonplace in everyday life. Digital audio; televisions; massive changes to cars; ATMs and credit cards. Can you imagine someone from the 1920s trying to operate a Dyson AirBlade?

This is before accounting for the crazy rate of cultural change that would shock someone from 100 years ago. Half the words used in daily conversation wouldn't even make sense to someone from 1920.


"instant-speed trans-Atlantic communication" started with the laying of the first trans-atlantic telegraph cables in the 1860's, and allowed machine to machine communications, messaging, shopping, there are even cases of people marrying after meeting over the telegraph. Radio was in use by the 1920's and a smartphone is basically a personal 2-way radio with pretensions!

I think a lot of modern tech is really just 19th century tech done (a lot) better, smaller, faster, more conveniently, and much more widespread.


I was born in the 60s and I hold with the people who think we've been in relative stagnation, despite sometimes getting that living-in-the-future feeling. The 80s and 90s felt like progress was picking up after the 70s malaise, but not like the decades around 1900 as I've read about them. Since 2000ish it's like we went down the wrong trouser-leg of time.

You could make transatlantic calls in the 1920s. Sure, it was not that fast or capable as the internet, but the fundamental capability of connecting the world together has been around for a century or so. So it's not that strange as you try to make it to be.

You're being incredibly disingenuous; the very first transatlantic call was made in 1927. To say that the "fundamental capability" of information transmission was there is like saying that the fundamental capability of travel or illumination existed with the horse or candle. You can't simultaneously claim that the car's invention represents a dramatic paradigm shift while the Internet doesn't.

The future is not evenly distributed. That might work with 1920s New Yorkers, but for many other places round the world the change has been huge, dramatic, and somewhat traumatic. Heck, even if you take someone who isn't a white guy from 1920s New York, you'll find the world looks very different to them.

1920 was at the beginning of the wave of post-1914 turmoil of the end of empires. Europe had been swept by war and revolution, and nobody would have known how that was going to turn out. Poland was still about 10% Jewish. China was still in the "warlord era" before the rise and fall of the KMT. India (and much of the rest of the world) was still British.

For a sense of the quasi-feudal pre-war Europe, I will always reccomend A Time Of Gifts, Patrick Fermor's walk across Germany and Eastern Europe in the 1930s.


My father born in Russian Grand Duchy of Finland in 1912, saw a car first time in 1925. It was little scary, but he realized it was basically "a small locomotive on rubber wheels". So it goes, you just rationalize, nothing is ever really amazing.

And yes. When I first time a programmed a real computer in 1972, I was truly amazed, because I tought the "programs" were just a way represents algorithms and the "computer" was just an theoretical machine. At first I thought there was another human at the other end of Teletype-line, but the bloody "computer" was just too fast.


Really there have also long been been a mix of "new" tech introduced in a niche and "roll out" of old tech infastructure to more places often aided by the previous making it cheaper or possible. Aquaducts and irrigation canals existed for millenia and some have had indoor plumbing of sorts ahead of schedule for quite a while. Rural electrification and indoor plumbing initatives often meant the difference. It took time for it to be more widespread from wherever it was the most convenient. Rural areas had party lines

One unspoken difference from "just" computers directly between 1920 and now is checking in on farms or factories is wondering where everybody went and if they checked in on a nursing home would likely make them think there was an underpopulation crisis.


I agree that 1880-1915 was certainly a period of radical change, but aviation in 1915 was way less mature than you are suggesting, and would not become so for several decades.

The SPT Airboat Line [1] was the closest to an airline in the US at the time. It operated 20 mile flights across Tampa bay for 6 months in 1914 before ceasing operations.

Flying from NY to LA was not happening on any regular basis, and took much more than a couple of hours. The first transcontinental flight in 1911 [2] took 80+ flight hours over more than a month. Fast forward to 1933, transcontinental passenger flights took 20+ hours [3]. Nonstops finally became available in the late 40s and early 50s.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Petersburg%E2%80%93Tampa_A... [2] https://pioneersofflight.si.edu/content/first-american-trans... [3] http://www.boeing.com/news/frontiers/archive/2003/may/i_hist...


> Again, internet & computer revolution aside

I count the last technological leap as the transistor. We could have conceptually come up with computers and the internet any time over the past couple thousand years, but the use of electricity brought possible designs down to a useful speed, and transistors finally brought them down to a useful size.

edit: tbh, I think CMOS was also a big jump. A big leap in the efficiency of power consumption would also spur a massive revolution.


yep. npr ideacast and same thing that came to my mind. the conclusion was that we are in a slow progress period and there hasn't been a revolutionary invention like electricity or the combustion chamber. our productivity has been slowing down as well.

What you're really describing is the stasis of the last 60 years.

You could argue that the world has gotten into some sort of "stagnant" period, despite the technological advances.

E.g. We're no where closer to having a utopian-level of control over our government. Something that the rise of ubiquitous tech should have solved. On some level, we're all very averse to the notion as well, almost as if our attitudes to it have not changed and we have not worked on making tech good enough for us to be comfortable with it.

Or: Government structures have not changed at all. As a libertarian, I struggle to even conceive how people in the government can even change the structure and ordering of government at this point. We got to our current structures somehow in the past, but we seemed to have stopped the evolution and have almost doubled-down.


> Something that the rise of ubiquitous tech should have solved.

Why do you think it should have happened already? We’ve only had good lithium ion batteries for a decade or two. Same for the internet, maybe 20 years of widespread use. Solar cells are only just starting to compete with coal. There is much work to do, and we’re doing it but it takes time.

Information can travel instantly, that’s an important change, but the process of actually building the semantic router is not trivial. And the tech for affordable off-grid civilization is really juuust maturing right now.


> Something that the rise of ubiquitous tech should have solved.

What makes you say that?

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever carried out a rigorous analysis on the stability (in the dynamical systems meaning of the word) of our societies; whether they trend to dystopia or utopia.

But it isn't very difficult to argue that the US, at least, is currently trending dystopic. Look no further than citizens united.


A few days ago, I went into a barbershop in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, to have my hair cut. When I entered, the sole barber was slumped on a sofa looking at a computer screen. He didn't seem particularly happy to have a customer. The shop was messy, a white cat wandered around, and I had to step over a live turtle in a tank on the floor to get to the barber chair.

As the barber cut my hair, I asked him about the shop. He said that it was ninety years old—the area had escaped bombing during the war—and that his grandfather and father had run the shop before him.

If someone opened a similarly shambolic barbershop today, it would almost certainly fail, as Japanese consumers are picky about appearances. But he said he had a steady clientele, including customers who themselves were the second or third generation in their families to get their hair cut there. He also turned out to be pleasant to chat with, and I had no complaint about the quality of the haircut.

The cost of the haircut was on the high side, and as he lives behind the shop in a house he inherited he must have minimal overhead. He looked to be in his forties. He should have no trouble keeping the shop running well past the century mark.


Is it part of the culture in japan that you take over the business of your parents? I wonder if that negatively affects the quality of the business to have children running it that don't particularly want to.

It has traditionally been a part of the culture for businesses both small and large. In the case of small shops like the barbershop I visited, an often-reported issue in recent years is the reluctance of the younger generation to take over their parents' shops; one result is an increase in empty stores in once-bustling shopping areas. The declining birthrate also contributes to that trend. Larger companies are also often passed down from parents to children; it's no coincidence that the president of Toyota Motor is named Akio Toyoda.

In some cases, family succession helps to maintain quality and traditions and to keep the company intact; in others, it can lead to inertia, internal strife, and business failure.



Wow - that tea house has been operating for 900 years? I thought the previous record was a Japanese temple building company that was around for 400+ years before having to close during the global financial crisis a decade ago?!

There is that old adage in multi generational businesses that goes - "The first generation kicks off the business, the second generation builds upon what the first generation did, and the third generation squanders everything the first two generations did". In my 40+ years of business consulting I have actually seen this happen multiple times.

There must be something different about the Japanese cultural and philosophical outlook of building a business and handing it over to the next generation to carry on.


This probably helps: "Several companies have even benefited from the widely-accepted Japanese practice of adopting adult male workers into the family bloodline to ensure an unbroken succession for the business"

This technique has saved monarchies (and "lesser" families) around the world for millennia.

> I thought the previous record was a Japanese temple building company that was around for 400+ years before having to close during the global financial crisis a decade ago?!

You have the numbers mixed up, Kongō Gumi had been founded in 578 AD so its run was over a millennia.


Japan's Kongō Gumi construction company has lasted over 1,400 years! To give a perspective of the time period of its existence -

• It was started just right at the end of Kofun period when Japanese tribes started political centralisation (578 AD).

• It has survived unification of Japan under Tokugawa shogunate (1603 - 1868).

• It has survived forced opening of Japan to the outside world by the western forces (1854).

• It has survived World War I (1914 - 1918).

• It has survived World War II (1939-1945), ending in the near total destruction of the country.

Yet, when Japan survived to become a Trillion dollar economy; Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. was liquidated and acquired by Takamatsu Construction Group (2006).

What does it take to build a Business which lasts over 1000 years now? Would humanity even last for next 1000 years with current geo-politics, inequality and hatred?


>• It has survived World War II (1939-1945), ending in the near total destruction of the country.

What part of WW2 resulted in near total destruction of the country? The two atomic bombs were tragic, but the near total destruction of two cities is a far cry from the near total destruction of a country.


s/millennia/millennium/. Or a chiliad if you prefer.

There is an old Korean saying which is roughly translated this way:

No family stays poor for three generations. And no family stays rich for three generations.


> I thought the previous record was a Japanese temple building company that was around for 400+ years before having to close during the global financial crisis a decade ago?!

There are banks in Europe older than 400 years as well.


And high schools, and houses, and pubs, and random walls in the middle of downtown, and...

Knowing what your place is in an honorific culture might help.

Another point I want to mention is that Japan was never invaded on its own territory by a foreign power and it wasn't ruled or politically influenced by outsiders for many centuries. This helps a lot to build and preserve a business.

On the contrary if you take the Balkans in Europe every few centuries the ruling power changed. First was the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, many other nations come to power for different periods, then the Ottomans, the Soviet Union and in the present day most of the companies and corporations in the Balkans are very proud if they have a history of 20-30 years (after the collapse of the Soviet Union)


It was hit by two atomic bombs.

This is always a dangerous game played on a slipper slope, but Japan had casualties of about 3-4% in WW2. Including the nukes!

Yugoslavia, who basically nobody cared about, had casualties of 7-10% in WW2.

Big, relevant nations are highlighted way more than the little guys.


The Second World War is certainly the most tumultuous time in Japanese history but it was still an era of relative stability when compared to civil wars, revolutions, and invasions in most parts of the world E.g. the monarchy prevails

You originally argued about foreign invaders, and now youve switched to civil war. which is it?

1) wrong guy

2) He's right. Japan post-WW2 endured foreign occupation yes, but without significant internal turmoil. Other states that underwent massive change (e.g. Russia: WW1->Civil War->2 Revolutions) had significant internal turmoil. This helps explain why so many "old" businesses survived in Japan.


If I own a reasonably successful business, and want the prestige / vanity of something like "Since 1953", could I buy a small / failing business in some small town and merge the companies? Would my company now technically be running since 1953?

I have companies in both Japan and the US. It's a fun though experiment at the very least. I don't think I'd ever execute on something like this, but a software development agency "since 1876" would be a great conversation starter.


Yes, this is exactly what the people behind Abercrombie & Fitch did.

They had an idea for a college brand of clothing and repurposed an old, dying hunting brand in the company lineup to give the new brand authenticity and a nice number to follow “est. “ in their branding.


There was actually an intermediate incarnation. After closing its high-end hunting/fishing store in Manhattan (gunsmiths on premise, fishing lures for a particular type of fish on a particular stretch of Western river) and going bankrupt, a Houston-based outfit made them a more generic "yuppie-ish" sort of store with connections to hunting mostly as an image thing. Then they were sold and developed into their current form.

In my opinion that would only count if the small company from 1953 bought out the larger company. Since in that case it is the older company absorbing the younger one.

In your example the younger company is absorbing the older one, so the old ceases to exist.


Sure, but brand recognition is still much more important than the founding date.

Brand recognition cuts both ways. Sometimes companies deliberately sunset their brand. For example, Foot Locker today is actually a successor corporation to Woolworth which was an example of what used to be called five and dime stores.

Or you could just put "since 1953" on the sign and not buy a company and few people would know any better. Equally disingenuous, probably not much less legal either.

Interestingly, this feels related to the low levels of entrepreneurship (Japan ranks 4th lowest in the world)

https://bradchattergoon.com/japan-and-entrepreneurship-e468a...

These things are neither universally good nor bad: I do believe the Japanese conception of duty (and how it diverges from an American sensibility) plays a large role in the fact 33k businesses are over 100 years old. As an American this many businesses is definitely an impressive number, but then again, 100 years ago the US was only 143 years old. We’re ~3 lifetimes (8 generations) away from the signing of the Declaration of Independence. ️


The low level of entrepreneurialism isn't 1 to 1 with low innovation though.

I think you're right about the sense of duty, it leads people to turning their innovation into something that can help their existing company versus taking it and starting their own firm most of the time.

On the flipside, company management seems more accepting of occasionally taking these radical ideas and rebuilding the whole business around them. Nintendo is a good example.


I generally agree, however I don’t think we should extrapolate trends in Japanese corporate culture from gaming companies. The origin of most of them are gambling syndicates (if you catch my drift) and I don’t think they would reflect the mainstream mores.

Nintendo is one of them. They were founded in 1889 as a playing card company. They even had a short stint running love hotels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo


While many of the oldest businesses in Japan are hotels, some of the oldest in Europe are breweries [1], e.g. Weihenstephan (1040) and Franziskaner (1397) which both make excellent hefeweizens.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_companies


Fun fact: The oldest continuous company in Japan (and the world), Kongo Gumi, was founded by a Korean immigrant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kong%C5%8D_Gumi


Another fun fact: the oldest monarchy in the world was also founded by a Korean immigrant

https://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/11/world/japan-rediscovers-i...


As far as I can tell you've misread the article. The grandmother of one of the emperors may have been Korean but the first (non-legendary) emperor was Jimmu who was born in Japan. I'm also a little wary of that article since it says "Yamato is the name of the family that founded Japan's imperial line" when Yamato is the word used for the ethnic group to which most Japanese belong. I'm wondering if there's a link here to the idea that Yamato people are mostly descended from the ancient Yayoi who took Japan from the Jomon and were probably from Korea (but not the ancestors of the modern Korean people).

Yamato is also the family name of the Japanese Imperial family.

These facts are directly related, through the Yamato region, from which the Yamato family ruled for some centuries.


Thanks

Traditional Japanese companies (I worked for one for a quarter century) tend to be quite risk-averse.

This does mean that they may not have massive spurts of growth, like Apple or Microsoft, but it also means they can weather storms fairly well.

Remember that many Japanese companies had their assets turned to kindling in WWII, and survived.


Funny, just the other day I bought a hand warmer here in Japan and it distinctly had 1923 as the age of the company on the box. I was struck by how that's almost 100 years now. Highly recommend the pocket warmer by the way.

http://www.hakkin.co.jp/


Beretta the Italian Gun manufacturer is almost 500 years old.

A lot of the firearms manufacturers are over a century old.

FN Herstal, Mossberg & Sons, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Browning, Walther all tick the 100+ year mark.

However, most of them trace their roots back to the industrial revolution, and didn't make the transition from bespoke pieces to mass production like Beretta did.


I was surprised to learn that the place my father used to hang on is 232 years old. It's in a crossroads, but not so frequented today, since they made the beltway and took away parking space that was around.

In Spanish, with photos:

http://puentechico1.blogspot.com/2020/01/restaurante-el-paja...



My wife's familys business has been up and running for well over 100 years.

As it was told to me... Her great great great grandfather had a small bank of sorts, then he or perhaps his children, I forget the reason why, moved into food. Primarily sourcing food for upscale restaurants. Her uncles and mother run the business now, although they are in their late 60s so I doubt it will stay going for another generation.

Her two brothers have their own careers, we live in the other side of the world and her cousin lives in the US.

It is a strange combination of having smaller families, career aspirations and globalisation which makes it less appealing I guess.


I think this article can bring new context for the whole situation:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/13/business/econom...


It'd be nice if they'd be a bit more precise with their terms.

Company, firm, and business have specific meanings.

Given BBC is UK based, a company would mean a separate legal entity to its members (a 'corporation' in US).

A firm means a group of people in business together, either a company of more than one member or a general partnership.

And a business is the true catch-all.

I doubt these businesses going back hundreds of years are incorporated entities. Back in the day those took an act of the state to form. The first KK in the country (Inc. equivalent for those in US, or Ltd. for UK) was only formed in 1873.

And I doubt businesses have been general partnerships continuously for hundreds of years -- since these desolve automatically when the membership changes e.g. by a death.

Especially to journalists, these details should matter.


I find it a bit surprising that a culture with so much Buddhist influence should place so much emphasis on preservation since Buddhism emphasizes the transitory nature of all things.

Why does it emphasize it in the first place? Human discomfort with it and emphasis is often selected by survival bias essentially. Not to mention the syncretism of Japan it has observed and joked to have local festivals at Shinto Shrines, weddings at Christian Churches, and funerals in Buddhist Temples.

This is very impressive. The average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 is 15 years.

looking at recent threads about disastrous upgrades e.g. mac os catalina, i would say we need some of this culture in software companies


You entirely missed the point that there is 33k of them. Your list does not even have 1000.

What makes you think I missed that point? I was making a playful remark about the fact Japan also has companies that are far older than 100 years old, which I find impressive and interesting. If I was trying to come up with a longer list, I would have said so. I wasn't, so I didn't.

and most of them anyway are in Japan



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