OSAKA Butsudan (Household Buddhist Altars)

Household Buddhist altars and other related items were first made in Osaka by specialists from Korea when Shotoku Taishi built Shitenno-ji temple in the late 6th century.
The skills and techniques that developed at that time subsequently spread throughout the area. The original altar for household use was developed by a woodworker who specialized in carving images of the Buddha. He conceived the altar as it remains today—a moveable item with bracketing, doors and screens.

Osaka household altars are produced to suit the unique requirements of each Buddhist sect, with particular attention paid to the decorative fittings on the doors. Care is also taken to ensure that the wooden interior is not damaged by the fittings. The gilded columns and carvings are exceptionally beautiful.


Osaka household altars come in different shapes according to which Buddhist sect they are intended for. The ingenious use of raised gilt lacquer work (taka-maki-e) creates the illusion that the metal brackets are nailed and prevents the brackets from damaging the wooden base. An elegant colored finish is applied to the surface of the statues and gilded pillars. Another distinctive feature are the decorative metal brackets (hasso) on the front door, which are indicative of the Buddhist sect.

How to make

Osaka household altars are made from pine, cedar and cypress wood and the production process comprises 11 stages, including the application of lacquer and gold leaf. Each stage is entrusted to a different specialist. The wooden base, the inner sanctuary (kuden), the dais for the image of the Buddha (shumidan) and the ornamental fittings each reflect the unique traditions of the various Buddhist sects.