The butsudan, a traditional religious home furnishing, is the latest unlikely muse for Japan’s continuing anthropomorphization craze.
In its quest to anthropomorphize anything and everything, Japan has chosen some unlikely items to turn into illustrated anime girls. Cars, at least, fall into the same category of “things young males tend to like” as 2-D babes, but when mushrooms and toasters started getting the anthropomorphized treatment, it seemed like the trend had exhausted just about every possibility.
And yet, now comes something even more unexpected.
While some would argue that the most important piece of furniture in a Japanese home is the kotatsu, the most culturally important is the butsudan, or Buddhist altar. Inside the butsudan, you’ll usually find ashes of the family’s ancestors, as well as religious paraphernalia for offering incense and prayers to the spirits of the departed.
The examples pictured above, sold by Kanagawa Prefecture-based company Kadoi Butsuguten, are fairly typical of the butsudan standing discreetly in many Japanese homes. Most butsudan are traditional in design, although some have a more modern look to them. Recently, though, Kadoi Butsuguten decided to add some cuteness to the world of butsudan, asking artists to anthropomorphize the item as part of a contest to pick an anime-style mascot character for the company.
After reviewing a total of 51 entries, the judges have made their decision.
With her excellent posture and the subdued yet elegant colors and patterns of her clothing, the character, drawn by artist Ina, actually does have a few things in common with a butsudan. Kadoi Butsuguten is calling her the first anthropomorphized butsudan in the industry, which is a wholly believable claim.
While Ina is no doubt happy for the recognition, the artist is probably glad that despite the religious inspiration for his latest work, he’s not being asked to cast off all worldly or material desires, as he was awarded 300,000 yen (US$2,650) for winning the competition.
Kadoi Butsuguten hopes that the character will help to boost interest in butsudan among young people in Japan, who are leading more secular lifestyles than generations past. Whether the character seen here will succeed in her mission remains to be seen, but even if the butsudan spokesmodel gig doesn’t pan out for her, she could always try to team up with an anthropomorphized crucifix for wacky adventures in a late-night, five-minute-episode anime series.