Yame Fukushima Buddhist Altars

Produced with input from various craftsmen - including woodturning, carving, metal fittings, gold leafing, varnishing and maki-e (decorative gold lacquering) – Yame Fukushima Buddhist altars (butsudan) are known as a composite art.

◇The origin of Yame Fukushima Buddhist altars
Yame Fukushima Buddhist altars are said to have begun when carpenter Sansaku Endo, together with fellow craftsmen, recreated a majestic Buddhist temple that appeared to him in a dream. Techniques for creating Buddhist altars were established during the late Edo period. The foundations of modern development were laid in the Meiji period, with four guilds formed around the old town of Fukushima responsible for enclosures (wooden frames), carving, kuden (palace making) and assembly. Then, in 1977, it was designated a Traditional Craft.

◇Yame Fukushima Buddhist altar techniques
The process of creating Yame Fukushima Buddhist altars involves making the wooden body and decorative roof of the kuden to form the Buddhist altar’s frame, followed by carving, metal fittings, lacquering, gold leafing, maki-e and assembly. Each craftsman is responsible for parts within their own specialization, which are finally assembled to create a single Buddhist altar. Rooted in the religiously-devout Yame region, Buddhist altars have developed uniquely as a way to not only commemorate and communicate with one’s ancestors, but also to strengthen family bonds.

◇Butsudan that stand the test of time
One of the characteristics of Yame Fukushima Butsudan is the collapsible structure that allows for repeated repairs or maintenance. At every step, the Buddhist altar is designed for easy disassembly, including the use of bamboo nails in intricate parts instead of iron that may rust and fall out. Although butsudan become tarnished by soot from many years of candle smoke, this too can be cleaned by disassembling individual parts. The skills of craftsmen ensure that Yame Fukushima Butsudan can continue being used from generation to generation.

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