Small cabinet or niche containing an image of Buddha flanked by the family ancestral mortuary tablets (ihai). Along with the kamidana (Shinto family altar), the butsudan is a sacred place in many households. Under the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867) Buddhism became tied to the practice of traditional ancestor worship and the butsudan became a common feature of each household. The image placed inside the butsudan may be a statue or a picture of Buddha, and the cabinet may be placed in a special room. Offerings of food, flowers, and incense are regularly placed on the butsudan, and candles are lit, and prayers made and scriptures are sometimes read.

In recent years, though, the number of houses with butsudan has been decreasing, particularly in the larger cities. Often only household the eldest son or daughter in the family maintains a butsudan enshrining members of older generations. According to a 1993 survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, only 47% of homes in Tokyo owned a butsudan.





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