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Japanese Home Shrine / Altar

Talk about the culture and entertainment from Nihon.
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Tao Libra
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Japanese Home Shrine / Altar

Post by Tao Libra » Dec 8th, '06, 10:39

In TV shows and movies, I have often seen Japanese people praying in front of a small wooden box that contains a photograph of some important ancestor(s) -- usually a parent.

Can anyone tell me what the word is for that shrine / altar? Is that the Butsudan? Or is it called something else? I thought I remembered reading another name for it, something that started with an M perhaps, but I can't remember it now. I even found a website once that sold them, but I can't find it now…

I hope it isn't horribly depressing to say so, but my mother just died; and I want very much to put up one of those shrines for her. I don't know what else to do…

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Tao Libra
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Post by Tao Libra » Dec 8th, '06, 11:38

I think I may have found the word: Mitamaya.

Can anyone tell me for sure whether that's correct?

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Riee109
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Post by Riee109 » Dec 8th, '06, 18:36

I don't know the word Mitamaya but I think it's name is 神棚 - Kamidana!

My hostfamily in Japan also has one of those because the father died a few years ago. It's so nice to see my hostmother puting him some rice there everyday.

Prince of Moles
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Post by Prince of Moles » Dec 9th, '06, 06:20

For most families, it would be a Butsudan.

Kamidana is where you place your household god (you need to provide food for the god everyday). This exists in most homes.

Dead ancestors are placed in the Butsudan, where the dead have become Buddhas. (This is the place where you burn incense, and offer food every once in a while).

Mitamaya is rare. If it exists, it will be placed slightly below the Kamidana. Dead ancestors, contrary to popular belief do not become gods often. Only rarely do people become gods, for example Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu did. But most daimyo and ordinary folks became Buddhas rather than gods when they die.

Oh and if your family happens to be die-hard Shintoists then you'll likely have a mitamaya rather than a Butsudan.

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