Holiday Gift Guide
DSCN3178

A butsudan is a shrine memorializing dead relatives in homes of Japanese Buddhists. Although I am not Buddhist, this butsudan set up that I received from my Buddhist grandma is hands-down one of the best things someone has given me. It gives me a place to say hello to my dad every morning and vent if something is going wrong in my life.

DSCN3180

Besides being a place to communicate with deceased family members, the butsudan is a place where you can make offerings (kumotsu) like food to them. I admit I don't offer food to my dad on a regular basis, but I do offer food on special occasions or if the food has special meaning to me.

Common offerings include seasonal fruit and rice. Pictured here is a Fuji apple from my sister's garden and a little bowl of rice. Japanese people NEED rice, even in the afterlife.

DSCN3182

Contrary to my simple kumotsu here-- my grandma is much more experimental and contemporary with her offerings. I have seen her offer pretty much everything, from potato chips to cigarettes.

I asked her what she does with the food "I eat it!" she says. I was very relieved to hear this since I really hate throwing food away.

DSCN3186
Column: Japanify
Tags:

7 comments

  • My mama is the same way. When i am home, I have to bring food to my dad’s butsudan, light a candle, burn incense, and chime, then we can eat. She goes to the cemetery every week to change flowers too. What a devotion.

    She was always pissed off at my dad when he was alive, but her devotion to pray for him after his death is quite impressive.

    Regarding the food offering, every meal, she put out bowl of rice, at least two kinds of dish, pickles, and a glass of sake (reused), and definitely chopsticks, which has to face his side. How could he eat his meal without chopsticks, right? Very strange culture that we don’t question.

    Yamahomo on

  • When I decided on “death” as the theme for the month on UM, I did not exactly know what you all would come up with. But this is so amazing. Thanks, Yoko for this.

    My dad is a Butsudan Mad Man. We can not sit down for dinner until we have made a plate for my grandparents and uncle. Growing up, I watched him clean the butsudan, fill the glasses with fresh water, and kneel down to say hello to our deceased family members every single morning. He still does. For him, it is something as automatic as brushing his teeth. Not once did I ever question his practice, even though as a family, we are not religious one bit.

    And yes, once we offer the food, we also take it away after an hour or two. We put it in the fridge and eat it at a later time. I never thought about it before, but I guess that is a little strange. Ha.

    kayoko on

  • Butsudan is very important in my family since I come from a family of Buddhist Monks. Since I cannot make it to our temple in TKO as often as I like we have a place to talk to our deceased at my mom’s. My mother has one place for everyone who has passed and we often talk to them in her room— which of course always freaks out guests when we exclaim “come say hi to Tomo’s Grandfather!” or “Give a treat to Puck our old German Shepherd!”

    tomo on

  • Something about adding an element of order to the otherwise chaotic business of death and dying is really welcome. I think that’s what I like about the butsudan.

    yoko on

  • My grandparents had an impressive butsudan at their home and a Buddhist nun used to come and pray once a month. She’d have some tea and sweets and a chat afterwards. I remember the incense, chimes and flowers but can’t seem to remember what food we put there. Only after my granddad passed away did I go and buy the special flowers from the flowershop for him.

    sakura on

  • Contrary to what most Umamimart readers may think, that is not an offering of pate in the jar labeled “Pate.” You can take a guess or just ask Yoko what’s in there.

    worm on

  • Haha! I can totally imagine your mom doing that.

    yoko on

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published