Kuroto, a Compact Household Buddhist Altar

Kuroto, a Compact Household Buddhist Altar

An elegant square-shaped altar finished with a deep black lacquer

A compact altar that offers a new style of worship.
This compact altar becomes a simple, black box when its doors are closed, while the altar appears if the dignified lid is opened. The design includes magnets that make it easy to unfold the altar for worship.

TitleKuroto, a Compact Household Buddhist Altar
ThemeCompact, household Buddhist altar
TechniquesWoodworking, lacquer, finishing, maki-e, carving, pressed metal fittings
MaterialsWalnut, hiba wood, veneer board, lacquer, cashew, urethane, gold powder, glass, neodymium magnet, copper foil and black nickel
SizeWidth:375mm; depth:211mm; height:228mm
DesignYosuke Inui
PhotographyHiroshi Ohno

Integrated traditional materials and techniques

The combination of delicate woodwork and painting and the integration of glass and neodymium magnets requires highly exact manufacturing, so these altars are produced using precise assembly methods and processes. Decorations appropriate for an art object like this have also been prepared, including the black paint, carving, maki-e, and so on.

  1. Woodworking

    Working with unfinished wood is an important initial process for creating the foundation or frame of a product.
    Woodworking at INOUE is based on the exacting quality found in the traditional arts that have been cultivated by the production of Buddhist altars in the castle town of Hikone since the Edo Period (1603-1868 CE). Craftsmen produced these altars by hand and without nails, demanding uncompromising quality in the careful selection of the best materials for use in mortise and tenon construction. These altars are durable enough to be handed down through many generations. Furthermore, we have connections with woodworking shops in other areas that specialize in mass production, allowing us to select the appropriate methods of woodworking for any project.

  2. Lacquering

    Lacquer is Japan’s exceptionally beautiful and high-quality traditional method of finishing. It is one of the most protective coatings in existence but can be very difficult to handle. Applying lacquer evenly requires the touch of a skillful craftsman from the first coat. The lacquer must be applied in many coats, from the first coat to the final finish, and the painting and polishing processes must be repeated many times over.
    A high-gloss lacquer finish, considered the highest level of lacquer, involves the painted lacquer being polished flat, after which raw lacquer is repeatedly rubbed into the surface and polished to bring out a deep luster that is nearly mirror-like.
    Based on our extensive knowledge of producing Buddhist altars, INOUE is able to offer the appropriate lacquering methods and craftsmen capable of implementing them, from a black, high-gloss lacquer finishes to a broad range of other coatings and lacquer colors.

  3. Maki-e

    Maki-e is an artistic lacquer technique that involves drawing pictures or patterns using lacquer and then sprinkling them with gold dust or other fine powders. Maki-e originates in Japan and is one of the unique traditional techniques developed here. Maki-e includes many subsidiary techniques, such as hiramakie, takamakie, and togidashimakie. Furthermore, maki-e includes a wide variety of different end products, such as the expression of depth through different types or sizes of gold powder and the application of a variety of processing techniques.
    At INOUE, we have built a network of maki-e craftsmen with a wide range of skills, allowing us to provide the skills needed for any project, from projects demanding the utmost quality to those needing to fit into a tight budget.

  4. Decorative fixtures (kazarikanagu)

    While various types of metal fixtures are used in the arts, metalwork that is highly decorative in nature is called kazarikanagu. Metals such as brass or copper are used to fit the objectives and location of the fixture and various techniques are employed to shape the fixture, such as zibori to give the fixture a three-dimensional feel, kebori to engrave the fixture with fine lines and details, and sukashibori to create openings and provide a sense of depth. Other fixtures can also be produced through more cost-effective methods like metal pressing, electric casting, and etching.
    We also provide the optimal techniques and decorative methods for adding finishes to kazarikanagu, such as gold plating, nickel plating or some other technique or combination thereof.

  5. Carving

    Carving involves using a chisel or other implement to create a three-dimensional from out of stone, wood, or another material. Japan has a rich culture of working with wood as part of its traditional arts, so great attention has been paid to the development of wood carving.
    At INOUE, we can respond to any wood carving request, as we are connected to various wood carving masters of different specialties. These specialties range from plants and animals that are typically depicted along the transom of a Buddhist altar, such as the flowers and birds, to statues of the Buddha himself.

  6. Finishes (cashew, urethane, etc.)

    At INOUE, the quality of our finishes is consistently and carefully scrutinized with a watchful eye. From sophisticated traditional techniques such as base coats of natural lacquer to cashew finishes made with the natural resin of the cashew tree, also a member of the lacquer family, to urethane finishes made with synthetic resins, we provide a wide variety of finishing techniques.
    Given our extensive network of craftsmen with unparalleled technical skill, we can fulfill requests for finishes of nearly any kind.

  7. Glass

    Glass is a relatively new material in the traditional arts world. It requires careful handling when integrated into objects to prevent it from shattering. We also use high-quality production methods so that in the unlikely event that glass does break, it can be repaired relatively easily.
    Lacquer that can be painted on top of glass has also recently been developed.

  8. Design of traditional arts objects

    In many ways, traditional arts objects are of an extremely high quality. However, as they are handmade, the scope of this quality differs in its conditions and limits from mass produced objects.
    At INOUE, we collaborate with designers who have a deep knowledge of the traditional arts to handle new designs. This includes adjusting a design using their knowledge of each of the arts processes involved in a project’s production. We are also happy to receive inquiries for projects that are still in the design phase.