The article focuses on one of the most important Buddhist sacred objects of Japanese religion known as household altar (butsudan) as well as the miniature icon case (zushi) which has genetic relation with the latter. These objects are the most typical examples of religious art in Japan. Aside from their major religious significance in Japanese culture, various religious ideas and many skillful techniques were incorporated to them that transform them into wonderful works of art. The Buddhist family altar is one of the most peculiar objects that characterize Japanese religiosity. This paper examines some issues of the origin, development and existence of a Buddhist altar. It is the center of family worship and devotional activities in Japan, as an important communication tool between this world and the world of the afterlife; it also produces a sense of continuity between the generations, e.g. when people report to the ancestors events related to the living members of the family. In Japan, where religion is increasingly observed critically, religious practices centered on the Butsudan are one of the country’s most enduring social and religious traditions.

Keywords: Buddhism, Japanese religion, religion art, household altar, butsudan, ihai, Buddhist sacred object 

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2019.3.43-52

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About the author 


Sergei V. Shandyba – Research Fellow at The State Museum of the History of Religion; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.