Born in Wakayama City and a graduate of Tokyo Women's Christian College, Sawako Ariyoshi spent part of her childhood in Java. A prolific novelist, she dramatises significant issues in her fiction such as the suffering of the elderly, the effects of pollution on the environment, and the effects of social and political change on Japanese domestic life and values, especially on the lives of women. Her novel The Twilight Years depicts the life of a working woman who is caring for her elderly, dying father-in-law. Among Ariyoshi's other novels is The River Ki, an insightful portrait of the lives of three rural women: a mother, daughter, and granddaughter. Her novel The Doctor's Wife, a historical novel dramatising the roles of nineteenth-century Japanese women as it chronicles the experience of a pioneer doctor with breast cancer surgery, has identified her as one of the finest postwar Japanese women writers. The Doctor's Wife (1966) is considered her best novel. Starting in 1949, Ariyoshi studied literature and theatre at the Tokyo Women's Christian College until she graduated in 1952. In 1959 she spent a year at the Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She then worked with a publishing company and also wrote for journals, joined a dance troupe, and wrote short stories and scripts for various media. She travelled extensively, getting material for her serialized novels of domestic life, mostly dealing with social issues. Recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1959, Ariyoshi had received some Japanese literary awards and was at the height of her career when she died quietly in her sleep.
- Kinokawa "The River Ki" (1959) - deals with aristocratic women.
- Hishoku "Not Because of Color" (1964) - deals with racism
- Hanaoka Seishū no tsuma The Doctor's Wife (1966) - best known work
- Jiuta (1967)
- Jiuta "Ballad" 1956
- Shiroi ōgi "The White Folding Fan" 1957
- Kiyu no shi "The Death of Kiyu" 1962
- Izumo no Okuni (the book) "Kabuki Dancer" (1969) -fictionalized account of the life of the inventor of kabuki.
- Kōkotsu no hito "The Twilight Years" (1972) -deals with ageism
- Fukugō osen "The Complex Contamination" (1975) -deals with pollution
- Kazu no miyasama otome "Her Highness Princess Kazu" 1978
- Chūgoku repōto "China Report" 1978
- Encyclopædia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD, article "Ariyoshi Sawako"
- Rimer, J. Thomas, A readers guide to Japanese literature, 1991 ed., p. 185-188, ISBN 4-7700-1477-5
- Solomon, Barbara H., "Other Voices, Other Vistas". A Mentor Book, March 1992.