Butsudan (仏壇) is a small Buddhist shrine found in Japanese houses and temples. Inside, a religious icon (honzon) sits on the top, surrounded by several Buddhist implements such as incenses, lanterns, candlesticks, flower bases, bells, and so on.
A butsudan used in regular houses is sometimes called onaibutsu (御内仏), to differentiate from the ones placed in temples. Families use their butsudan to place “ihai,” spirit tablets of deceased family members. Butsudan can be installed in many ways. You can have it installed in wall, or as a separate unit.
Depending on households, doors of a butsudan could be open or closed. If you do see a butsudan in someone’s house, do show respect, as it is an important part of their religious beliefs.
Amidakuji (あみだくじ) is a common lottery system used in Japan to randomly generate pairings from a group of participants to a set of outcomes. The rule is simple.
1) Let’s say we have 7 participants (represented by colorful cows above). We draw 7 vertical lines, and each participant chooses one starting point. On the other ends, we write down 7 lottery outcomes (中吉/小吉/吉/大吉/中吉/大吉/小吉）.
2) Each participant draw horizontal lines between any of the vertical lines. Horizons must be staggered, meaning no one horizontal line can go across more than two vertical lines.
3) After everyone’s drawn horizontal lines, you’ll trace a line from the staring point you chose to another end, but at each horizontal line you meet, you must take a turn to the connected vertical line.
In this case, the blue cow ended up on 吉.
The other participants will do the same, and each will end up with one of the outcomes on the other ends.
Mathematically, this method will never allow two participants to end up on the same outcome. It’d be useful in situations such as: when deciding different house chores for each family member, when deciding which person goes first on school presentations, when pairing up a person from one group to a person from another group as partners in team building exercise, etc.
The origin of the word came from Amida Nyorai, the name of celestial Buddha in Pure Land also known as Amitābha.
The original amidakuji in the past was circular rather than vertical, which resembled the halo depicted in many Amitābha paintings and sculptures, hence the name. Today, amidakuji no longer looks like the original, but the same name remained.