Much of this introductory survey (the first in a new series called ""Religious Traditions of the World"") is written with such bare simplicity that only the dullest sort of reader will feel threatened by it--but that may not be a bad thing. Earhart (Western Michigan U.) spells out everything, from the fact that Japan is made up of four major islands to the meaning of shogun, and when he comes to important points, e.g., that the Japanese are religiously eclectic and anti-individualistic, he doesn't hesitate to repeat himself. So the beginner or casual student, at least, will be well served here. Earhart's subtitle more or less contains his thesis: Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, folk religion, and the so-called New Religions do not function in Japan as rigidly separate traditions, but more often as components of a broad and deeply rooted response to the sacredness of society, of space, time, and human life. Earhart surveys Japanese religion diachronically and synchronically--though he shrinks from such technical-sounding language and resorts to homely hybrid terms like ""Buddhist funeral mass"" and ""local parish temple."" In his final chapters he examines two concrete and contrasting examples of Japanese piety (the Shinto-Buddhist spring mountain festival in a rural village and the career of a Tokyo businessman who gave up a rather secular life to practice the New Religion of Gedatsu-kai); and he speculates on the future of Japanese religion, which looks healthy despite the challenge posed by massive migration to the cities and the spread of materialism. Brief, clear, unassuming, useful.