I hesitate to criticize a book I have not yet had a chance to read, but I would like to make several observations based on James Ford's review. My main complaint about studies such as Dr. Sango's on Heian state Buddhism is that they do not provide an adequate understanding of Nara period history and religion as the background for what happened afterward.
I am very interested in this discussion and would like to add a couple of further points if the editors allow. I am a lurker on H-Japan, but I serve as one of the editors of H-Asia and also (for another month or so) as the president of H-Net (note that I am not speaking on behalf of H-Net but as an individual scholar and editor).
As readers will know, there are active reviews programs on many H-Net networks, and in general at H-Asia we rely on the weekly digest post from H-Net to keep our readers aware of Asia-related reviews published on other networks.
Let me add a comment or two to Jan's note.
First, H-Net can certainly respond to any H-Japan member who feels a more focused discussion group should be formed. There is a review process for proposals, but all existing lists started because someone took initiative to propose and organize a list. I understand and have sympathy for what Ross says on this issue of a more focused list, but there is a solution if someone wants to take initiative.
Thanks to Ross Bender for his comments on the review article on Shinto by Jolyon Thomas. I fully agree that the article was a tour de force. However, I do not agree that H-Japan is an inappropriate venue for this and similar review articles. We have a wide audience, more than 3400 subscribers, all of whom are interested in aspects of Japanese history, religion, and culture. Maybe a few of us even study the eighth century! Depending on the topic, reviews commissioned by H-Japan may also be circulated on other H-Net lists, such as H-Asia, H-Buddhism, H-Northeast Asia, and H-US-Japan.
This tour de force by Jolyon Thomas comprises the most comprehensive and up-to-the-minute scholarly overview of Shinto studies in English to appear in any academic publication or online platform anywhere. Unfortunately, H-Net Japan for all its virtues, does not tend to attract vigorous discussion of the occasional reviews published here. The fact that we have no H-Net Shinto, nor indeed any scholarly journal devoted to Shinto studies reflects a remarkable failing in Western academia.