10 Best Authors Like Yukio Mishima To Keep You Pondering the Meaning of Life

Discover our guide with authors like Yukio Mishima, who will send you down a philosophical rabbit hole, questioning your opinions and beliefs one after another.

Yukio Mishima was a Japanese author, playwright, and poet known today as one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century. Mishima was known for his top-notch descriptive language, use of metaphor, and how he uniquely combined Western and Japanese writing styles. The author’s politics, including founding an unarmed civilian militia, often kept him at the center of controversy.

Mishima is as well-known for his death as his life. He participated in a ritual samurai suicide at age 40 to bring awareness to problems in Japan’s political realm. Check out some of the best self-help books to get started!

Best Authors Like Yukio Mishima Ranked

1. Natsume Soseki, 1867 – 1916

Natsume Soseki
Black and white photo of Natsume Soseki

Natsume Soseki was best known for several novels and short stories, including KokoroI am a Cat, and Grass Pillow. The author was born into a wealthy family but was an unexpected (and sadly, unwanted) child to his parents. Another family adopted him, then returned to his biological family at 9. Soseki dreamed of becoming a writer as a teen, but his family disapproved. He later began college to become an architect, but a friend convinced him to try writing.

He began teaching middle school English and later was sent to the United Kingdom by the Japanese government to become the first Japanese English literary scholar. In addition to his novels and short stories, Soseki wrote haiku, renku, haitaishi, and social commentary. If you enjoyed our guide to the best authors like Yukio Mishima, we have many more inspirational round-ups that you can check out such as the best authors like Wayne Dyer.

“I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things.”

Natsume Soseki, Kokoro
I Am A Cat (Tuttle Classics)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Natsume, Soseki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 482 Pages - 12/20/2011 (Publication Date) - Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

2. Kenzaburo Oe, 1935 – 2023

Kenzaburo Oe
Photo of Kenzaburo Oe

Hiroshima Notes author Kenzaburo Oe was influential in Japanese literature. He touched on many social issues throughout his writing career, including nuclear weapons, existentialism, nuclear power, and non-conformism. The author began his literary career in 1957 when he published his first short story, Lavish are the Dead, in Bungakukai literary magazine. Oe credits his son, Hikari, with influencing his literary career. Hikari was born with brain damage, and Oe’s 1964 novel A Personal Matter discusses his family’s adjustment as they welcomed Hikari to the world. His son lived with him and his wife for decades, often composing music while sitting beside his father as he worked.

“The people of Hiroshima went to work at once to restore human society in the aftermath of the great atomic flood. They were concerned to salvage their own lives, but in the process they also salvaged the souls of the people who have brought the atomic bomb.”

Kenzaburō Ōe, Hiroshima Notes
A Personal Matter
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Oe, Kenzaburo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 229 Pages - 05/16/2011 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

3. Osamu Dazai, 1909 -1948

Osamu Dazai
Black and white photo of Osamu Dazai

Shuji Tshushima wrote No Longer Human under the pen name Osamu Dazai. Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Murasaki Shikubu heavily influenced the novelist. Dazai wrote in a first-person style that was rare then and soon became his literary trademark. Sadly, he made several suicide attempts throughout his life and struggled with drugs and alcohol for years. After running away with a geisha, his family disowned him at a young age. Dazai’s work gained popularity during WWII and was published despite his Marxist leanings. In 1948, Dazai tragically died by suicide by drowning with his wife, Tomie.

“I am convinced that human life is filled with many pure, happy, serene examples of insincerity, truly splendid of their kind-of people deceiving one another without (strangely enough) any wounds being inflicted, of people who seem unaware even that they are deceiving one another.”

Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human
No Longer Human
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Dazai, Osamu (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 196 Pages - 01/17/1973 (Publication Date) - New Directions (Publisher)

4. Yashushi Inoue, 1907 – 1991

Yashushi Inoue
Black and white photo of Yashushi Inoue smiling

Best known for his novella The Hunting Gun, Inoue completed his degree in philosophy at Kyoto University. In addition to the praise Inoue received for his work The Hunting Gun, he also received wide acclaim for The Bullfight, for which he was awarded the Akutagawa Prize. In addition to his novellas, Inoue also wrote autobiographical books, including 1975’s Chronicle of My Mother, which detailed his mother’s descent into dementia during the later years of her life. Inoue was best known for his writing, but he was also renowned for his deep knowledge of Japanese history.

“First of all, you’ve never had anything to do with loneliness. You’ve never felt lonesome.”

Yashushi Inoue, The Hunting Gun
  • Inoue, Yashushi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 08/01/1991 (Publication Date) - Peter Owen (Publisher)

5. Georges Bataille, 1897 – 1962

Georges Bataille
Black and white photo of Georges Bataille

The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge is the most widely known work of Georges Bataille, a French philosopher, author, and mystic. The work was compiled after his death and brought together many of the author’s writings and lectures on theology, history, meditation, and more. Bataille developed the concept of base materialism during the 1920s, inspired by Gnostic ideas (an ancient set of beliefs that emphasized personal spiritual journeys over the idea of organized religion). Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche heavily influenced Bataille.

“Nothing is more necessary or stronger in us than rebellion.”

Georges Bataille, The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge
Story of the Eye: By Lord Auch (Penguin Modern Classics)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Bataille, Georges (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 127 Pages - 09/26/2013 (Publication Date) - Penguin (Publisher)

6. Taichi Yamada, 1945 – 2021

Taichi Yamada
DVD cover with a Japanese character looking into the distance

Born Taichi Ishizaka, Taichi Yamada is a screenwriter and novelist who left hi job as an assistant director to pursue a career in screenwriting. Yamada saw great success writing for the small screen and has also written plays and movie scripts. I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying for a While is known as one of the author’s most successful works worldwide–the novel was translated into English in 2008. Yamada is also known for his novel Strangers, which won the Yamamoto Shugoro Prize. 

“I shouldn’t have said that. We should keep reality as far away as possible.”

Taichi Yamada, I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying for a While
山田太一、小此木啓吾、「家族」を語る。 (Japanese Edition)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • 山田 太一 (Author)
  • Japanese (Publication Language)
  • 179 Pages - 03/16/2000 (Publication Date) - PHP研究所 (Publisher)

7. Yasunari Kawabata, 1899 – 1972

Yasunari Kawabata
Black and white photo of Yasnari Kawabati

Nobel prize-winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata is known for his lyrical prose that has been heralded for its broad international appeal. Three of the author’s novels were cited as reasons behind his 1968 Nobel Prize win, including Thousand Cranes. Kawabata was devoted to Zen Buddhism and often spoke of the benefits of long meditation periods, contemplating how simplicity becomes beauty.

During his Nobel Prize speech, Kawabata briefly mentioned suicide, stating that he felt dying by suicide was a form of enlightenment. After feeling devastated by the suicide of Mishima, Kawabata also died by suicide in 1972. Are you searching for books to expand your knowledge about mental health? Check out our round-up of the best books to read for mental health!

“Now, even more than the evening before, he could think of no one with whom to compare her. She had become absolute, beyond comparison. She had become decision and fate.”

Yasunari Kawabata, Thousand Cranes
Snow Country (Vintage International)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Kawabata, Yasunari (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 194 Pages - 02/26/2013 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

8. Jun-ichiro Tanizaki, 1886 – 1965

Jun-ichiro Tanizaki
Black and white photo of Junichiro Tanizaki

Heralded for his work In Praise of Shadows, Jun-ichiro Tanizaki is considered one of the greatest figures in Japanese literature. The writer often compared the differences between Western life and Japanese tradition. Tanizaki began writing in 1909, and his first work was a one-act stage play published by a literary magazine. His name quickly became well-known.

In addition to Shadows, Tanizaki is well-known for The Maioka Sisters, which detailed the lives of four daughters of a well-off Osaka merchant who watched their lives deteriorate as World War II began. The work was meant to be serialized, as it was wildly popular with readers. Sadly, the novel’s serialization was never complete. His publishers were warned that his writing did not match the spirit necessary for the public to embrace during the war.

“If light is scarce, then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty. But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light—his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”

Junichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows
Longing and Other Stories
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Tanizaki, Jun'ichirō. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 153 Pages - 01/04/2022 (Publication Date) - Columbia University Press (Publisher)

9. Ogai Mori, 1862 -1922

Ogai Mori
Black and white photo of Ogai Mori

The Wild Geese author Mori Ogai was a Japanese Army officer, novelist, poet, and translator. Ogai drew inspiration from many cultures and was the first writer to successfully translate Western poetry into Japanese. The writer is often credited with modernizing Japanese literature and making the works of Japanese authors accessible to readers around the globe. Ogai classified himself as an “anti-realist.” He believed literature should explore spiritual and emotional ideas rather than be centered in the real world. 

“I don’t remember who spoke first, but I do recall the first words between us: ‘How often we meet among old books!; This was the start of our friendship.”

Ōgai Mori, The Wild Geese
Wild Geese: The modern classic that was the source for the highly acclaimed film, 'The Mistriss' (Tuttle Classics)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Mori,Ogai (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 162 Pages - 04/11/2011 (Publication Date) - Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

10. Kobo Abe, 1924 – 1993

Kobo Abe
Black and white photo of Kobo Abe

The Face of Another author Kobo Abe was an inventor, photographer, and playwright in addition to his writing career. Before writing Face, Abe was known for his novel The Woman in the Dunes, which was made into a feature film in 1964. Abe is often likened to Franz Kafka due to his ability to explore dark parts of society in surreal ways. Abe won the 1962 Yomiuri Prize for Dunes, for which he was awarded two million yen.

“You don’t need me. What you really need is a mirror. Because any stranger is for you simply a mirror in which to reflect yourself. I don’t ever again want to return to such a desert of mirrors.”

Kōbō Abe, The Face of Another
The Woman in the Dunes (Vintage International)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Abe, Kobo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 258 Pages - 12/14/2011 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Japanese authors!