I am mystified as to why this book was published by an academic press. The theory Skya provides is so patently ludicrous that any Japanologist would have dismissed it before he finished the introduction, and probably recommend that Skya get fired from whatever sad-sack institution he teaches at. Every page of this book has the words "radical Shinto ultranationalism" on it, in that order. Why he chose this phrase is never explained. Why are all these writers "radical"--were they not influential figures in contemporary Japanese society? What is the difference between friendly, familiar Western nationalism and Japanese "ultranationalism"? What makes it "ultra"? Does it provide twice the nationalism of an ordinary nationalist, like concentrated laundry detergent? And finally, most importantly, what the heck does he mean by "Shinto"? He seems to be relying on the theory of D.C. Holtom, a now discredited 1930s missionary who claimed that Japanese nationalism was religious in tone. But the Japanese government, importantly, considered its fascist techniques to be secular.
Skya is either unaware of State Shinto's claim to secularity or purposefully omits it. Instead, he parallels Japanese nationalism to Mark Juergensmeyer's "ethnic-religious nationalisms", in contrast to "Western-style secularized nationalisms". (3) Obviously, Skya is rooting for the allegedly nonsectarian and Western side of the clash of civilizations rather than the "religiously bound" rebels. He's a plain old neoconservative. But what makes Japanese values more religious than our own? This is not directly answered, but an answer is alluded to: their strangeness and foreignness. For Skya, kamikaze attacks in World War II were not just an example of a different set of wartime values, despite their historical precedent, but were rather a "fanatical" and possibly "mentally deranged" expression of "State Shinto ideology", as opposed to sane, sober, and secular Western tactics like remote-controlled missiles and atomic bombs. (7) Because he is so committed to searching for some hidden philosophical narrative being exploited by the state, he makes bizarre historical errors like attributing hakkou ichiu to ancient "Shinto doctrine" rather than recognizing it as an invention of late 1930s ideologues, (25) or claiming roughly everything Japanese ideologues wrote about the state to be a product of "Shinto", including an article on Amida Buddha. (201)
I search in vain for any explanation why the nationalism described here is different in its values from Western nationalism. The theory being used is a fabrication, and the thesis therefore meaningless. Use this book as toilet paper.