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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.