Michiko Inukai, an author and philanthropist who worked to help refugees and people facing starvation, died Monday at 96, according to people close to her.

She was a granddaughter of former Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai, who was killed in an attempted coup in 1932 that became known as the May 15 Incident.

The Tokyo native and eldest daughter of former Justice Minister Takeru Inukai was baptized as a Catholic after quitting Tsuda Eigaku Juku, one of Japan's first private higher education institutions for women and the forerunner of Tsuda University.

She moved to the United States in 1948 for further studies, before learning bibliology at a university in Paris and traveling across Europe.

After returning to Japan, she published her first book, "Ojosan Horoki" ("Preppy Girl's Travel Diary"), in 1958 to present her own comparative culture examinations based on her experiences in Western countries, and moved into the limelight.

Since the 1970s she worked vigorously to help refugees and combat starvation, visiting refugee camps and conflict-affected areas in Asia, Africa and the Balkans.

The author used her own assets to launch a fund to provide scholarships to refugees that is now called the Michiko Inukai Foundation.

She also promoted campaigns to help starving children and send saplings to Pakistan for environmental conservation.

Her books include "Hanabana to Hoshiboshi to" ("With Flowers and Stars") and "Seisho wo Tabisuru" ("Traveling through the Bible"). She served as a visiting professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, and at the educational establishment that later became St. Catherine University in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture.

The philanthropist spent her last days at a welfare facility in Hadano, near Tokyo. Her younger brother was the late Yasuhiko Inukai, former president of Kyodo News.