Home > Japanese Culture > Osu Vol.1 -a town of Buddhist altar-

Osu Vol.1 -a town of Buddhist altar-

We have an attractive town in our region. It is Osu, which has been combined ‘tradition’ and ‘subculture’. I had a chance to learn about Osu. This time, let me introduce you a topic about Osu: Buddhist altars,butsudan.

It is said that Osu is famous for Buddhist altars and Buddhist objects. According to the oldest records, the specialized store offering Buddhist altars called ‘Hiroya’ kicked off its business in 1695. Ever since, a lot of Buddhist craftsmen and artisans came together for business settled down in Osu.

You can see another reason why Osu is famous for Buddhist altars from the geographical point. Nagoya castle, one of landmarks in Nagoya city, was built close to Osu in 1610. The clan lord at the time had to develop the town around the castle in order to have this region attracted and developed. Moreover, protecting the town from enemies must have been a priority for the lord. The lord regarded Osu as a temple town, the first gate to defend the town against enemies. Temples, of course, had the first priority to spread their religious discipline at the time. Plus, temples would be used as fortress once wars waged.

A proclamation banning Christianity in 1612 must have affected Osu on gathering Buddhist craftmen and artisans, too. Tokugawa shogunate forbade residents from Christianity. In addition, Tokugawa shogunate ordered the residents to register the certain religion they practiced. Buddhism was the one Tokugawa shogunate employed. The new system brought the residents chances to have a Buddhist altar each. Therefore, craftsmen or artisans obtained more and more opportunities to produce altars.

In addition to the difference on ornamentation between the sects of Buddhism, there are roughly two types of Buddhist altars in Aichi prefecture: Nagoya butsudan and Mikawa butsudan. The most obvious difference between Nagoya butsudan and Mikawa butsudan might be a rack at the bottom of altars. The racks of Nagoya butsudan are higher than those of Mikawa butsudan. Why? The area including Nagoya has three big rivers, which used to cause flood damage frequently. The higher racks have been preventing the altars from being soaked. See the differences between Nagoya butsudan and Mikawa butsudan.

Several accomplished craftsmen or artisans with different skills engage in producing Buddhist altars. No less than 10 skilled people work on in each line. Here are some photos showing some processes of making Buddhist altars. Ohya-san, who has been running a Buddhist altar manufacturer, gave me permission to upload the photos.


Craftsmen called kiji-shi put together frames of altar.

Craftsmen called tenjoh-shi decorate ceilings.

Craftsmen called queden-shi carve wooden boards and compose a small palace where Buddhdas are enshrined.

Craftsmen called uchibori-shi show you intricate but magnificent ornaments.

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