“…also known as “lute priests”, were travelling performers in the era of Japanese history preceding the Meiji period. They earned their income by reciting vocal literature to the accompaniment of biwa music. Often blind, they adopted the shaved heads and robes common to Buddhist monks. […]
Religion in Japan at the time incorporated many native animistic (Shinto) beliefs into its Buddhist theological framework, leading many court nobles and religious leaders to worry about angry Taira spirits disrupting the peace.”
From a Salon October 2014 article on why so many of the world’s oldest corporations are Japanese:
Even though primogeniture faded with the 20th century, owners still often pass their companies on to a single heir—although keeping business in the family is often aided and abetted by adult adoption, in which the company head legally adopts the right person to run his firm and then passes it on. (These adult adoptions are sometimes facilitated by a marriage between the heir presumptive and the owner’s daughter.) In 2011, more than 90 percent of the 81,000 individuals adopted in Japan were adults. Firms run by adopted heirs, research shows, outperform those run by “blood” heirs—and both adopted and blood heirs outperform nonfamily firms.
According to Wikipedia List of oldest corporations, the world’s oldest corporation is: 578 (year) Kongō Gumi, in Japan, in Construction business.
The Wikipedia page for that business adds:
Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. (株式会社金剛組 Kabushiki Gaisha Kongō Gumi) is a Japanese construction company which was the world’s oldest continuously ongoing independent company, operating for over 1,400 years until it was absorbed as a subsidiary of Takamatsu in 2006.
Related Salon.com link: Why are so many of the world’s oldest companies from Japan?