Household Buddhist altars were a variation of miniature shrines called zushi and were originally used exclusively by the warrior classes. It is thought that the production of ordinary household altars began in earnest with an increase in the numbers of people requiring one at the beginning of the Edo period (1600-1868), when the Tokugawa Shogunate introduced new religious policies.
Besides being home to the headquarters of some one hundred or so different sects, Kyoto has nearly 3,000 temples as well as countless national treasures and cultural assets. Kyoto Household Buddhist Altars are direct copies of the inner sanctuary of the main temple of each sect, faithfully reproduced in miniature. A great deal of pride is attached to the degree of quality and approach demanding a level of craftsmanship applied right down to the finest detail to make a craft object that is so indicative of the city and its craftspeople. Representing different individual skills, there are now 31 government recognized Master Craftsmen among the 1,960 staff now employed by 330 firms maintaining the making of these altars.