The completion of this book was a fascinating and arduous journey, which would not have been possible without meeting many people who provided me with plenty of encouragement and numerous inspiring discussions. Amongst these, special thanks go to Cosimo Zene, who helped this project at every step with his criticism, charm and sense of humour. I owe a special gratitude to Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, who introduced me to the field of near-death studies and who stimulated my critical thinking during our numerous meetings in both London and Tokyo. My sincere appreciation also goes to Paul Badham and Karl Jansen, for supporting me with valuable guidance and profound insights. I also owe a debt to Susumu Shimazono who made it possible for me to take part in his 21st Century COE program on the 'Construction of Death and Life Studies' at the University of Tokyo, one of my most life-changing experiences. There I met friends and scholars who were of great help and inspiration, especially Allan Kellehear, Yasuo Yuasa, Hiroshi Motoyama, Carl Becker and Yoshi Honda.

I should also like to thank The Japan Foundation and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for the generous funding that made my research in Japan possible.

My editor Lesley Riddle and the rest of the team at Routledge made the process of revising for publication both constructive and pleasant, despite all the challenges of writing a book in my third language. I also benefited from Paul Marshall's vigilant eye and useful suggestions.

Several other scholars and friends contributed to this work: Fabrizio Schifano, Shigenori Nagatomo, Lucia Dolce, David Lorimer, Cherie Sutherland, David Fontana, Rupert Sheldrake, Chris French, James Robinson, Fulvia Cariglia, Giuseppe Festa, David Luke and Sidney Chang.

I should also like to acknowledge the help of those who agreed to be interviewed for this project and the Religious Experience Research Centre at the University of Wales, Lampeter, for supporting me with invaluable material, which made much of this book possible.

To my family, for their love and support, I reserve a very special gratitude.

Finally, a thought of gratitude goes to the memories of two marvellous teachers, Laura Huxley and Yasuo Yuasa, who taught me so much about the possibility of a deep harmony between body, mind and spirit during our lifetime, which will continue to inspire my work to an indefinite degree.

Ornella Corazza London May 2008

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