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Society / Culture

Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions

(University of Hawaii Press 2005)

Paul L. Swanson and Clark Chilson

On its publication in 2006, this edited volume was groundbreaking in its combination of critical and theoretical discussions of selected topics pertaining to the heterogenous field of Japanese religions. With hands-on chapters dealing with the realities of doing fieldwork in the country and of accessing the necessary resources and archives, the book updated the field with current research, providing a wide-ranging and detailed overview of approaches to, and work done in, the study of Japanese religions.
The well-thought-out thematic and chronological structure of the book, which covers the various religious traditions, the history of Japanese religions, major themes in the field, and the practical side of research, also leads to some fruitful overlapping of topics, perspectives, and approaches.

This book is essential to both beginners and experts in the field. It provides a solid introduction as well as a useful overview of specific subfields. In tandem with the essays on research practices, there are comprehensive bibliographies, a detailed index, and a useful timeline. All of these make the volume useful for those wishing to research Japanese religions. Reflecting the state of the field around the time of publication, the coverage of the 15th and 16th centuries, an important period of change for Japanese Buddhism, is somewhat sparse, as is the consideration of the contemporary use of and state of religions in the country. Nevertheless, this valuable volume provides readable and informed guidance into and within the complex and multifaceted world of Japanese religions.

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