100 books like Shapers of Japanese Buddhism

By Yusen Kashiwahara, Koyu Sonoda,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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 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 Joseph A. Fitzgerald, Harper Havelock Coates, Ryugaku Ishizuka

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 Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home

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?

Saigyo (1118-1190) was one of the most influential Japanese poets. His name means "Westward Journey" which implies moving toward the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. The poems bring out the bitter-sweet quality of life, beauty and loneliness, blooming spring and frosty winter, cherry petals and tears that fall, echoing the deep emotionality and mystery of the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

By Burton Watson, Saigyo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Burton's Watson translations are accompanied by a Romanized version of the Japanese original and identification of its location in Japanese anthologies. A general introduction discusses the few facts known about Saigyo's life and analyzes the origins and characteristics of his poetic style.


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 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 Ennin's Travels in T'ang China

Bruce L. Batten Author Of Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500-1300

From my list on early Japan in world history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on the West Coast of the US and became fascinated with Japanese culture after I enrolled in a Japanese language course in college. I changed my major from geology to Asian Studies and went on to get a doctorate in Japanese history from Stanford. The first place I lived in Japan was on the western island of Kyushu, historically Japan’s front door to the outside world. This experience led to a lifelong interest in early Japanese foreign relations. Fun fact: despite being from the US I have now lived most of my life in Japan teaching history at a Japanese university.

Bruce's book list on early Japan in world history

Bruce L. Batten Why did Bruce love this book?

This book is also old but I have always loved it. It’s the best thing ever written by Edwin Reischauer, the pioneer historian of Japan and also US Ambassador to that country during the Kennedy administration. It follows Ennin, a ninth-century Japanese Buddhist monk, on his visit to the glorious and cosmopolitan Tang empire in China together with a group of Japanese diplomats. Travel then was very different from travel now; to go by ship across the East China Sea was to take your very life into your hands. What an adventure!

By Edwin O. Reischauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ennin's Travels in T'ang China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, a reconstruction of daily life and ways of thought in China during the ninth century, is based on an extensive travel diary of that time. The diarist Ennin was a Japanese Buddhist monk who went to China in AD 838 in search of new Buddhist texts and further enlightenment in his faith. While journeying through North China, and living in Ch’ang-an, he recorded in detail what he saw and experienced.

Edwin O. Reischauer presents—often in Ennin’s own words—a series of vignettes of various aspects of life in the Far East in medieval times: embassies and the conduct of…


Book cover of Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Consciousness

Rande Brown Author Of Geisha: A Life

From my list on what the West can learn from the East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an American Jewish girl who was born knowing that I had been Japanese in my previous lifetime. After graduating with a degree in Japanese studies from Princeton University, I moved to Japan at 21 and became a well-known translator. One day the Geisha Mineko Iwasaki, the inspiration behind Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, asked me to co-author the story of her life. Published in 2002, Geisha, a Life became a bestseller. Writing Geisha awakened memories of my past life as a courtesan in fourteenth-century Kyoto. I began a deep study of reincarnation, which has led me to study the intersection of Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. Please look out for my forthcoming book, Reincarnation Karma.

Rande's book list on what the West can learn from the East

Rande Brown Why did Rande love this book?

Finally, the mechanisms that undergird the transformation of consciousness in all mystical traditions, whether East or West, are explained in language that is easy to understand. In this ground-breaking work, Motoyama combines the psycho-spiritual wisdom of Chinese medicine, Kundalini Yoga, and Esoteric Japanese Buddhism to create a model of spiritual evolution that can be utilized to good effect by anyone. 

By Hiroshi Motoyama,

Why should I read it?

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


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.


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 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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Buddhism, Buddhism in Japan, and Japan?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Buddhism, Buddhism in Japan, and Japan.

Buddhism Explore 278 books about Buddhism
Buddhism In Japan Explore 5 books about Buddhism in Japan
Japan Explore 493 books about Japan