The History of Butsudan #3 Turning point and modern Butsudan

In Muromachi period (14th -16th century), Shoin-Zukuri (Zen cultural house) had taken a firm hold to Samurai culture. And they put Buddhism items on at Tokonoma of their house (See also The history of Butsudan #2). Then Butsudan got a turning point.

Rennyo of Jodo Shinshu school appeared.

Rennyo was Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-temple the 8th, he is the important person in Jodo Shinshu history.

Rennyo had propagated Jodo Shinshu’s teachings actively, and he had recommended doing a religious service to followers everyday. For that reason, he had issued many “Rokuji Myogo (Namu Amida Butsu)”.

According to records, Rennyo didn’t mention Butsudan. Followers who were given Rokuji Myogo from him had gotten habit of putting it into box-like cabinet.

That is the first case of Butsudan.

In Edo period (17th ?19th century), Edo Bakufu shogunate had enacted Danka System. (see also Wikipedia).

The purpose of this system was to make Christianity into prohibited religion. For that reason, common people had got a necessity to belong to Buddhism temple (to avoid to become offender).

Jodo Shinshu followers had advanced Butsudan, because they were getting a habit of having Bustudan (or thing like a Bustudan)

Further, the lay people line of Jodo Shinshu had high affinity to Edo Shogunate’s religion policy. For that reason, other Buddhism schools also had adopted Butsudan in imitation of Jodo Shinshu.

Japanese Buddhism had experienced this history, and Japanese Buddhists got a habit of having Butsudan (at family unit). Nowadays, Bustudan have various styles.

The History of Butsudan #2 The model of Butsudan appeared

In Heian period (8th ? 12th century), Japanese Imperial culture reached its peak during period. At the same time, Mappou Shisou (one of eschatology) prevailed in the years. Noble clung to Buddhism, they built temples (Jibutsudo). The representative Jibutsudo is Byodo-in Houou-do. Byodo-in may be compared to the large Butsudan.

Byodo-in Houou-do

In the latter of Heian period, Hounen, Shinran, Dogen, Eisai and Nichiren are appeared, they put forward a new Buddhism (called Kamakura Buddhism). Buddhism changed from noble’s to common people’s.

In Kamakura period (Samurai ruled Japan), many Samurai became a believer in Zen. For that reason, Zen culture had influenced Japanese culture strongly.

The representative item, Ihai (spirit tablet). Kaimyo (Dharma name) is written on it by monk (after the death generally).

However, the so-called Butsudan had never appeared. They put Buddhism items on at Tokonoma of Shoin-Zukuri (Zen cultural house).

The History of Butsudan #1 Introduction and Ancient years

Maybe you can’t understand about Butsudan if you’re not Buddhist. No, even if you’re Buddhist, maybe you can’t understand about it unless you’re Japanese Buddhist. Because Butsudan is special Buddhism item of Japanese Buddhism culture.

Butsudan is the Buddhism wooden cabinet for Honzon (principal icon), Ihai (Dharma name tablet) and other tools (candle, burners, incense, orin bell)…

Generally, Butsudan consist of high-class timber, Urushi lacquer and metal. Any materials are expensive, and it’s produced sophisticated works by 7 – 8 craftsmen. So, it’s not cheap item. Instead of expensive, Butsudan would stay approximate 100 years.

This is Butsudan (it’s super high-class version). There is also more than 130,000 USD.

This is normal type (630 ? 12000 USD on average)

Butsudan and inner temple are made in imitation of Buddhism world, Mount Meru (Shumisen in Japanese). This is called Shumidan.

(Example for inner temple)

About Mount Meru, please refer to Wikipedia.

We have other similar items also, that’s called Butsugan and Zushi. It’s very difficult to define about Butsudan and them. Generally, Butsugan is space of dug wall (install statue at there). Zushi is the case of suitable for statue size.


In Japan, Shozon-Butsugan that was brought by Kobo Daishi is very famous.


Sometimes Zushi is not cheaper than statue itself. Because Zushi have high-class timber, Urushi lacquer and metal.

Therefore, Butsudan is advanced Zushi.
And it’s like a miniature temple (The origin of Butsudan is temple).

The origin of Buddhism temple is considered the hill that put sacred item on after the death of Gautama Siddhartha in India.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan from Baekje (Korea) in 6th century. At same time, Zushi also came.

The famous Japanese Zushi is Tamamushi-no-Zushi in Horyu-ji temple at Nara. This Zushi is the oldest one in Japan.

In 8th century, the 45th Emperor, Emperor Shomu gave Imperial order on establishment of Buddhism temple to whole country.