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A fantastic book. I have read much about Heian and pre-Heian Japan, and Ooms' volume is the best at bringing this turbulent time alive. It is filled with remarkable details -- not the boring, stultifying sort, but rather the sort that flesh out characters and motivations of personages long gone. The book covers a wide range of issues, including both the role of "allochthons" (as Ooms terms those people who originated from outside Japan) in the creation of the Japanese state and the generally ignored (until now, at least) existence of Daoism and Daoist ritual that existed alongside Buddhism. Ooms is respectful of the reader; the impact of a bewildering list of names and events is lessened because he provides the little cues necessary to remind the reader of so-and-so's actions in a previous chapter. Plus, there is a handy, detachable card at the back of the book, which not only diagrams the sometimes confusing genealogy of early Japanese emperors but also serves as a handy bookmark -- a little touch of genius to answer those who predict the death of books in the digital age. Overall, Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan is an invaluable addition to my bookshelf.
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