This blackened bronze kōro, or incense burner, features the komainu ("lion dog") on its lid. The komainu, also known as the shishi or jishi, is a creature typically seen at the gates of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Komainu are believed to have the power to repel evil, leading to their placement as guardian figures. The burner is comprised of two pieces: the body and the lid. The body has two handles and three legs, and features relief decoration. A variety of small openings on the base and lid allow the incense smoke to escape.
A butsudan (literally "Buddhist altar") is a shrine found in temples and in the homes of Japanese Buddhist families. Typically a wooden cabinet, a butsudan holds a range of religious objects, such as a gohonzon (icon), candlesticks, incense burners, rice, and ihai (memorial tablets for deceased relatives). The butsudan is the center of Buddhist faith in the home.
Buddhism is a religion originating in India, based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Buddha, meaning "the awakened one," teaches that to end human suffering one must eliminate desire; the end of suffering is an escape from the cycle of reincarnation and the attainment of nirvana. Buddhism arrived in Japan by way of Korea in the 6th century CE, and went on to be a major cultural influence in the development of Japan. Because Buddhism is polytheistic (and even at times considered atheistic), it has been able to coexist with Shintoism, the indigenous and polytheistic religion of Japan. There are many sects and schools within Buddhism globally today; in Japan, the most popular branches include Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism.