Review by Choice Review
In some ways this first volume (of a six-volume history) represents the most demanding challenge to scholarship because it covers so much ground, and thus turns up almost intractable issues of interpretation and controversy. Because it has taken a decade to complete, it necessarily excludes new archaeological discoveries in Japan and in Korea. Nevertheless, the volume adds immeasurably to the understanding of the history of early Japan. One must welcome enthusiastically the presentation in English of the work of so many distinguished Japanese scholars. In short, this is a monumental work, rich in detail and in attempts at analysis and synthesis. The footnotes are copious, the 28-page bibliography is a gold mine of information, and the glossary-index is a model of helpfulness, including the kanji for all the important names and terms that appear. Chapters discuss the archaeological record, the Yamato kingdom, the 7th-century reforms, the Nara state, relations with the continent, early Shinto, Buddhism, economic and social institutions, and Asuka and Nara culture. However, one must raise a note of caution. Chapter 2 on the Yamato kingdom is marred by mistakes and misreading of the sources. The most serious is the interpretation that the Yamato headquarters was moved from the southern to the northern part of the Nara Plain in the late third or early fourth centuries. Critics may fault the general editors for asking someone whose primary research has been in medieval Japan to edit this volume on ancient Japan. Nevertheless, the work is highly recommended for all libraries with a serious interest in Japan and its history. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. H. Bailey; Earlham College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.