100 books like Saigyo

By Burton Watson, Saigyo,

Here are 100 books that Saigyo fans have personally recommended if you like Saigyo. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Japanese Temple Buddhism: Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

Most books on Buddhism emphasise the monastic tradition, meditation and a life of strict morality, removed from the everyday world of ordinary people. Much of Japanese Buddhism, however, is conducted by married priests living modern lives in direct interaction with secular society. This book provides an important antidote to contemporary stereotypes.

By Stephen Covell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Temple Buddhism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There have been many studies that focus on aspects of the history of Japanese Buddhism. Until now, none have addressed important questions of organization and practice in contemporary Buddhism, questions such as how Japanese Buddhism came to be seen as a religion of funeral practices; how Buddhist institutions envision the role of the laity; and how a married clergy has affected life at temples and the image of priests. This volume is the first to address fully contemporary Buddhist life and institutions - topics often overlooked in the conflict between the rhetoric of renunciation and the practices of clerical marriage…


Book cover of Shapers of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

This book includes twenty full and seventy-five brief biographies of significant figures in the history of Japanese Buddhism, some of them orthodox, many of them eccentric, each contributing some unique genius to the living tradition from the sixth century up to modern times. An excellent way to enter the spirit of the tradition with many stories to enjoy.

By Yusen Kashiwahara, Koyu Sonoda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shapers of Japanese Buddhism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than thirteen centuries of clergy, laity, and social conditions interacted to mold Japan's Buddhism. Today's resulting characteristics, which distinguish it from its mainland sources, include a proliferation of independent sects, emphasis on religion for lay members, and de-emphasis of clerical codes. The twenty main biographies and seventy-five sketches presented in this book reveal both the individual and social aspects of Buddhist evolution and in Japan, spanning from the sixth through twentieth centuries. They cover the many separate interchanges that brought Buddhist texts and practices from Korea and China as well as the innovations that arose in Japan.


Book cover of Honen the Buddhist Saint: Essential Writings and Official Biography

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

Honen Sangha (1133-1212) revolutionised Japanese Buddhism. Famous in his own time yet exiled near to the end of his life he introduced an approach to practice that embraced ordinary people and appealed to all ranks of society. His mould breaking innovation paved the way for the emergence of the several new schools that still dominate the Buddhist scene in Japan today. and his humanity and warmth of character still inspire.

By Harper Havelock Coates, Ryugaku Ishizuka, Joseph A. Fitzgerald

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Honen the Buddhist Saint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Priest, saint, and founder of the independent school of Pure Land (Jodo) Buddhism in 12th century Japan, Honen Shonin's importance has been largely unrecognised in the West, even though his legacy includes over twenty million living practitioners of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. "Honen the Buddhist Saint: His Life And Teachings" is the first and only English translation of a biography of this remarkable man. Edited by Joseph A. Fitzgerald, this edition combines illustrations from Japanese religious sites as well as Honen's own words which allow him to speak "from across the ages", to any human being, Buddhist or non-Buddhist,…


Book cover of The Monk Who Dared

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

A gripping work of fiction constructed around the known facts of the life of Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism which is today the largest denomination in Japan. The novel reveals a thorough appreciation of the social climate and circumstances while telling the tale of Shinran who - “neither monk nor layman” - carried forward the religious revolution of the Kamakura period.

By Ruth M. Tabrah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Monk Who Dared as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Bashō's Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages

Dennis Kawaharada Author Of Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

From my list on exploring roads less traveled in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Between 2004 and 2020, I made twenty-five road trips around Japan’s four main islands, covering over thirty thousand miles, mainly in a rental car with my partner Karen. We traced the 1689 journey of the poet Bashō to northeastern Honshū and searched for famous places depicted in woodblock prints of nineteenth-century artist Utamaro Hiroshige. My recommendations include the books I consulted to explore roads less traveled and sites less frequented to learn about the literature, history, and culture of our ancestral homeland. The road trips are documented in my featured book and online at my website.

Dennis' book list on exploring roads less traveled in Japan

Dennis Kawaharada Why did Dennis love this book?

Bashō’s poetic narrative of a journey he made in 1689 to northeastern Honshū is the most famous travelogue in Japanese literature. As a college student in 1970, I read a translation and imagined someday following the path of his journey to see what he saw. Over three decades later, I had the time, resources, and knowledge to make several road trips to do just that. After reading various translations, I found Sato’s the most helpful in understanding why Bashō visited the places he did and what his narrative and poems were about. As we drove along Bashō’s roads, Sato’s annotated text provided insights into the history and culture of Japan and its Tōhoku region. 

By Matsuo Basho, Hiroaki Sato (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bashō's Narrow Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Matsuo Basho (1644-94) is considered Japan's greatest haiku poet. Narrow Road to the Interior (Oku no Hosomichi) is his masterpiece. Ostensibly a chronological account of the poet's five-month journey in 1689 into the deep country north and west of the old capital, Edo, the work is in fact artful and carefully sculpted, rich in literary and Zen allusion and filled with great insights and vital rhythms. In Basho's Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages, poet and translator Hiroaki Sato presents the complete work in English and examines the threads of history, geography, philosophy, and literature that are woven into Basho's…


Book cover of Tangled Hair: Selected Tanka from Midaregami

Chriselda Barretto Author Of The Creep: A First of Its Kind Narrative Poetry in a Thriller Genre!

From my list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets.

Why am I passionate about this?

Chriselda is a multi-genre, prolific author, and speaker, with a background in Business Administration and Chemistry/Microbiology. She speaks 5 languages & has published over 50 books. Her expansive writing covers poetry, horror, thriller, romance, children’s illustration, educational... but she enjoys telling a story in narrative poetry the most. Currently, she is working on her next dark poetry book Me and Him, where she will invoke one of the greatest poets – EA Poe. In her effort to promote more learning, she is also wrapping up the fourth book in her - Sigils, Symbols and Alchemy Series. Her passion for writing, lifelong learning, creativity, and her curiosity all help spark her innovative mindset.

Chriselda's book list on poetry from the world's greatest female poets

Chriselda Barretto Why did Chriselda love this book?

Yosano was a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist, and social reformer, active in the late Meiji period as well as the Taishō and early Shōwa periods of Japan. She is one of the most noted, and most controversial, post-classical woman poets of Japan.

Akiko, an imaginative, creative soul, succeeded in turning traditional tanka poetry, which had gotten lifeless and boring, into an unexplored, uninhibited dimension of passion and never seen before seduction. Being a pioneer with her tempestuous poetry, she makes you see the rawness and beauty in mundane things we take for granted. Sensational, authentic poetry from one of the greatest women poets. This book inspired me to investigate haiku, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry for my next WIP.

By Akiko Yosano (Shō Hō), Seishi Shinoda (translator), Sanford Goldstein (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tangled Hair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Akiko Yosano's Tangled Hair, published in 1901, had a sensational impact on Japanese literature, and we are pleased to make this highly praised translation (originally published 30 years ago) available once again in a revised Cheng & Tsui edition. Akiko reshaped the tanka, the most popular form of Japanese poetry for 1,200 years, into a modern poetic form. In this new work, her tanka appear in their original Japanese, in roman transliterations, and English translations along with a new preface and notes. Suitable for literature programs and translation courses.


Book cover of Tonoharu: Part 1

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

I recommend this three-part series of graphic novels for their beautiful artwork and painstaking attention to detail. Illustrator Martinson has a superb knack for observing the smallest aspects of the Japanese environment, with every frame bursting with the minutiae of everyday Japan.

The story follows ‘Dan’ a downbeat American, working as an English teacher in Japan who is experiencing severe isolation in his host country. Dan’s attitude to his new life is at the very extreme end of the culture shock spectrum, whereas in my experience, most foreigners embrace life more than he does, and therefore enjoy a more balanced experience. However for the artwork alone, I recommend the three part Tōnoharu series which are truly beautiful works, and make a worthy addition to any Japanophile's library.

By Lars Martinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tonoharu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Daniel Wells begins a new life as an assistant junior high school teacher in the rural Japanese village of Tonoharu. Isolated from those around him by cultural and language barriers, he leads a monastic existence, peppered only by his inept pursuit of the company of a fellow American who lives a couple towns over. But contrary to appearances, Dan isn't the only foreigner to call Tonoharu home. Across town, a group of wealthy European eccentrics are boarding in a one-time Buddhist temple, for reasons that remain obscure to their gossiping neighbors.


Book cover of Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan

Bryan S. Turner Author Of The Body in Asia

From my list on making you wish you lived in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an undergraduate at the University of Leeds in the 1960s the principal influence on my life and thinking was Trevor Ling an Anglican Priest and Buddhist who eventually became a Professor of comparative religion at the University of Manchester. He was the start of my research on Islam and Asia and my peripatetic career having lived in Scotland, Germany, Holland, America, Australia and Singapore. I became a professor of the sociology of religion in the Asia Research Center at the National University of Singapore. I have published two books on Singapore, a handbook of religions in Asia, and several works on the body, medicine, ageing and human vulnerability.

Bryan's book list on making you wish you lived in Asia

Bryan S. Turner Why did Bryan love this book?

Most of us probably grew up with the idea that above all Buddhism rejects the body to attain spiritualty. It is actually the reverse. This study looks at the idea of the materiality of Buddhist texts (sutras) and the narratives and sermons that accompany them (setsuwa). Both body and book are corruptible , and hence great efforts are made to protect these ancient texts. Eubanks argues that there is an intimate connection between book and body as matter. The human body (especially the brain) is thus a container of Buddhist teaching. Scroll and stupa are critical for protecting this precious wisdom of the Buddha. Body and book are the witnesses to our suffering and impermanence. The stupa may contain the relics of past buddhas (and ash) just as the scroll contains the wisdom of buddha teaching.

By Charlotte Eubanks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miracles of Book and Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Miracles of Book and Body is the first book to explore the intersection of two key genres of sacred literature in medieval Japan: sutras, or sacred Buddhist texts, and setsuwa, or "explanatory tales," used in sermons and collected in written compilations. For most of East Asia, Buddhist sutras were written in classical Chinese and inaccessible to many devotees. How, then, did such devotees access these texts? Charlotte D. Eubanks argues that the medieval genre of "explanatory tales" illuminates the link between human body (devotee) and sacred text (sutra). Her highly original approach to understanding Buddhist textuality focuses on the sensual…


Book cover of The Wild, White Goose: The Diary of a Female Zen Priest

Elles Lohuis Author Of A Pilgrim's Heart

From my list on biographies of Western Buddhist women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write novels that enthrall, enrich, and enliven you. I've been student of Buddhism for more than thirty years and spend long periods of time with the most generous Tibetan Buddhist nuns in their monasteries in the remote Himalayas, relishing the solitude and contemplative life. Their tales of resilience are an enormous inspiration to me. The biographies of Western Buddhist women I’ve selected are everything I look for in ‘great writing’. The stories are engaging and entertaining, but also make us pause and reflect to appreciate the astonishing opportunities of the privileged times we live in, and challenge us once again to be and do better—every moment of this precious life.

Elles' book list on biographies of Western Buddhist women

Elles Lohuis Why did Elles love this book?

This is a diary of an English woman who moved to Japan in the 1950s to study Zen at one of the most prestigious temples at the time and become the first female to be sanctioned by the Soto School of Japan to teach in the West. The diary takes us through her years of arduous training in Japan, through the challenges that beset her, and gives a truly moving account of her brilliant mindset throughout her grueling ordeal to become a Zen priest. 

By Roshi P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wild, White Goose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, first published as two volumes in 1977 and 1978, was published purely for the purpose of showing how Buddhist training was done by the Reverend Jiyu-Kennett in the Far East. The material for the book was taken from diaries covering eight years spent by the author in Far Eastern temples, and describe her religious training and her growth of a Zen priest into a teacher, running her own temple.


Book cover of Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

Julian Sedgwick Author Of Tsunami Girl

From my list on to explore otherworldly Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the age of 11, and an encounter with an illustrated anthology entitled The World of Zen, I have been drawn to and fascinated by the spiritual, philosophical, and folkloric aspects of East Asian Culture. I studied the subject at Cambridge University and subsequently trained in Zen Shiatsu therapy. Most of my books draw from my passion for East Asian culture, and Japan in particular. I have travelled widely in Japan over the last two decades, and for Tsunami Girl spent four years researching, interviewing survivors, and visiting Fukushima. I am now working on a new book on Japanese yōkai and ghosts…

Julian's book list on to explore otherworldly Japan

Julian Sedgwick Why did Julian love this book?

A journey through both her own grief and the suffering of the March 2011 disaster, Mockett’s book is a personal exploration of the after-effects of loss and trauma, set against Japanese Buddhist, Shinto, and folklore beliefs around death and the afterlife. Like travelling with a wise and inquisitive friend, she leads the reader to memorable encounters (some of which echoed my own experiences in Tohoku) with tsunami survivors, Zen priests, and blind mediums. Thought-provoking and tender, the book reverberated in my head long after I finished reading. Hugely recommended.

By Marie Mutsuki Mockett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple but after the Fukushima disaster, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. As Japan mourned, Mockett also grieved for her American father who had died unexpectedly. Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colourful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt and finally uplift her.


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