Customer comments on this Youngstown Ohio Book
Good source for information on Shinto practice
I recently finished reading this book in preparation for a trip I'm taking to Japan in the fall, I will be studying at University for year. I had read a couple of other books about Shinto and found them useful but what I really wanted to read was a book on Shinto practice so when I visit a Shinto Shrine I will have a more complex understanding of what is going on. In a way, this book goes beyond just understanding a Shinto practice it also covers details on things like how to finance a Shrine and how to sit so your legs fall asleep less often etc. I should clarify that this book isn't a travel guide but a well written ethnography, one that primarily focuses on one medium-large Shinto Shrine. In general the book doesn't get to detailed or too hard to read. The author spends some time with theory's and interpretations but mostly focuses on observation. Some of my favorite parts of the book are the interviews with the Guji, he had an interesting life story and some good comparative religion thoughts. Some of the younger priests also have some interesting input, some times complaints. The chapter about a woman Shinto Priest was another highlight. I believe this book would be great for undergraduates, I'm an undergrad in Religious Studies and Philosophy, or for anyone interested in Shinto practice.
The human side of Shinto
For someone interested in the "human" side of Shinto religion, Nelson's book is a fascinating study of a religion little understood by most westerners. Its best to skip the introductory chapters, which are a bit pedantic and dry, and start with the actual description of shrine activities. Nelson is most interesting when talking about the priests and their relationship with Shinto, their "parishioners" and each other. Ultimately, it is this sort of writing that convinces the reader that Shinto is not a bunch of exotic rituals, but has a very real meaning and value in its followers lives. Written in 1996, Nelson poses a number of questions about Shinto's future throughout the book. It would be interesting if a second edition of the book was published updating the reader on the present activities of the shrine and its priests.
It has been years, but I still remember Doc Nelson quite well, as one of the best professors I have ever had. He was capable of educating you without feeling like you were being schooled, if you know what I mean. In his book, it is much the same as in his classes. He provides such powerful imagery to invoke the spirit of the Suwa Shrine that it feels like you are there. And given that I lived in Nagasaki and have been there on several occasions, it feels to me that I have returned. You can experience through his first-person narrative the depth of ritual and see as well how it permeates into the life of the average Japanese person, who may not even realize it.