This string of black Buddhist prayer beads, called juzu, are meant to be part of a butsudan household altar. The beads are likely made out of glass and the majority are black, but two red beads and the knot divide the strand into three sections. Tied at the knot is a green tassel. Buddhist prayer beads are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited during meditation. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions; therefore they may also be referred to as the Buddhist rosary.
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.