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What Is an Exchange Diary?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 23, 2024
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An exchange diary is a diary that is written and read by at least two people. These two people take it in turns to contribute sections to the diary that may or may not reply to the previous entry. Exchange diaries became popular in Japan in the 1990s, where it became one of many fads that swept through students, especially girls. Such diaries turned up in classrooms across Japan, as well as other countries, and were designed to be confidential exchanges between best friends and classmates, while excluding teachers and parents. The diaries may also be used as a teaching aid and for therapy.

The diary is made out of a special notebook. In Japan, this notebook would be decorated with small annotated and decorated photographs called “Purikura.” The diary cover and pages, if plain, are often decorated with drawings as well as photographs. The names of the participants or the name of the exchange diary might be written in pen across the front or back covers. More formal exchange diaries would be plain with the names of the participants written on the cover.

Entries take the form of a normal diary. There are, however, subtle differences. While an entry might talk about a person’s day or activities since the people last met, the entry will be written in a different way. The writers, rather than being totally honest with themselves, will instead be writing what he or she wants the reader to see.

While the exchange diary can be good for therapy because it gives someone a platform to write about her problems and experiences, its inherent lack of honesty is an issue. Such a diary will only work as a therapeutic tool in physical, emotional or mental trauma treatment if both participants, usually the patient and the care giver, are honest with one another. While such diaries are often protected by the Hippocratic Oath, normal school exchange diaries are not.

It is ironic, therefore, that the exchange diary is designed as a private way to exchange secret information. Many diaries are used to pass on gossip, talk about people the writers fancy in class or to talk about pop culture. They are also designed to be kept secret from people not included in the exchange.

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Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Dec 04, 2013

@fBoyle-- You can decorate your diary however you want. But since it will be shared with your friend, you might want to concentrate on things that you both love. You could even put a picture of both of you, but maybe in the inside cover because this is a private diary.

How often you exchange it depends on how frequently you meet. If you meet at school, you could exchange it everyday or once a week. It could be more or less frequent depending on what you guys want. It's your diary and your rules.

There is also an exchange diary application online now that people can use. The idea is the same, the only difference is that the people you select have access to it whenever they want and no one else has access. There won't be any fights over the diary. But it does require access to a computer, so I think that this is better for college students.

By fBoyle — On Dec 03, 2013

@fify-- I'm definitely going to do this too. My mom is into crafts, so I'm going to ask her to buy a diary and help my friend and I decorate it. I want to put our initials on it and maybe some other things.

Does anyone here have an exchange diary? What does yours look like? How did you decorate it and how frequently do you exchange it? Once a week?

By fify — On Dec 03, 2013

This is such a great idea! I had never heard of an exchange diary but I would love to have one with my best friend. I think it would be fun and it will be something special that we share. The only issue might be deciding who will keep it when we graduate!

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