Review Blog

Dec 03 2013

Yoko's diary ed. by Paul Ham

cover image

ABC Books,2013. ISBN 9780733331176.
(Age: Suitable for Middle School students aged 10-15 years) Highly recommended particularly for students of History and Japanese. Yoko's diary was first published in Japan in 1996, but this is the first English translation. Yoko wrote her diary each day from 6.4.1945 to 5.8.1945 - a period of 4 months - from her commencement in Year 7 at the prestigious 'Kenjo' high school in Hiroshima. Yoko relates the detail of her days in 2 sections - 'School' and 'Home' - with lots of detail about domestic arrangements and the education system.
Yoko tells us at what time she wakes and at what time she goes to bed. She tells us if/what she studies and what chores she does. She details everyday life in Hiroshima in the last days of World War II.We experience Yoko's ups and downs, her joys and frustrations, her commitment to hard work, her compassion for the Japanese troops, her loyalty to family, school and country, her rare opportunities for play with friends, her long days travelling to and from school and visiting family members and her attempts at growing food. We can see how readily she, her family and teachers accepted the Japanese war propaganda. Japan's war efforts were in dire straits, but Yoko believed that victory was not far away. Yoko diary finishes on 5.8.1945, the day on which the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She died later that day from the effects of the bombing.
Yoko's diary is edited by Australian author Paul Ham and he has added numerous information pages eg shrine maidens, rationing, religion in Japan in the 1940s. It has been beautifully designed. Many pages are adorned with cherry blossom decorative scrolls. There are black and white photos, maps and Yoko's family tree. In addition there are recent contributions by Yoko's older brother, Kohji, her niece, Miki,her nephew, Yo, her sister-in-law, Kazuko, her school friend, Kazuko, and Hatsue, who attended Yoko as she died apart from her family in a relief centre. The details of Yoko's injuries and last hours are heart-breaking, but sensitively handled.
Margaret Strickland

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