There’s a company here in Japan that sells designer Buddhist altars and equipment (the small bowls, incense holders, and so on) and who advertise this fact very widely.

They have a website, though be warned—it’s in Japanese, all done in Flash, and although pretty, not awfully usable. The navigation is confusing enough that they need a flashing “start here >>” sign pointing to a little box, from which a row of boxes slides out. Move your mouse too quickly and overshoot that row, though, and you have to go back and start again. Well, you’ll see what I mean if you go there. If you do, try navigating to the first category (the leftmost sliding-out box) and move your mouse over the links at the bottom of the page that appears. It’s worth it just to see the products sliding across and bouncing off the wall.

Something about the concept of designer religious paraphernalia doesn’t quite sit right with me. Of course, the fact that my concept of religion is largely based on the tedious services I was forced to endure at school (and therefore consists of guys in dresses, hard bench seats, “begats” and sweating or freezing depending upon the whims of the climate) might have something to do with my inability to square religion and modernity

In fact, I find those little altars that some people have in their houses ("butsudan") slightly freaky. There’s something slightly macabre about it in my mind.

I also can’t understand why such people always leave out food and drink for the deceased. You know, once or twice would be understandable, but when it’s still there four days later and the rice is rock hard, it suggests to me that the deceased must be getting their sustenance elsewhere. And yet, they persist, time after time. You could compare it to the practice of leaving out food and drink for Santa Claus, but there’s a difference there. Someone does drink the sherry at Christmas, even if it isn’t the intended recipient.

Ah, the mysteries of faith, right? It’s a mystery to me, that’s for sure.