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The Kikuchi Diary: Chronicle from an American Concentration Camp (book)

Creators: John Modell

The diary of Charles Kikuchi , a Nisei , and his observations about the chaos for Japanese Americans in the Bay Area after the bombing of Pearl Harbor as well as life in Tanforan Assembly Center .


This volume begins with an introduction by the editor, John Modell, who provides historical context about Japanese Americans in general, and Charles Kikuchi in particular. He explains that Kikuchi, who was born in Vallejo, California, was the oldest son, but was sent away to a Salvation Army home at age 9 by his parents and did not have much contact with his natal family until after he was 18. Thus, he did not grow up in the Japanese American community, which gave him a unique perspective later.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he was studying sociology at University of California, Berkeley, and the diary starts with his observations about the chaotic and confusing days after the start of war. The book also includes a series of letters he sent to one of his sisters who had moved to Chicago that describe what life in the Bay Area is like before Japanese Americans were forcibly removed.

The bulk of this volume are Charles Kikuchi's observations about life in Tanforan Assembly Center. He had already been approached to work on the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study because he was studying sociology, and his diary was written with the possibility that it would be used as a historical and sociology record in mind. The diary includes observations about the effects of incarceration on family dynamics, how each member of his own family adjusted to incarceration, the different types of Nisei he observed, conversations he had with Fred Korematsu who was incarcerated at Tanforan while on bail, the activities of prostitutes and other ways incarceration affected Japanese American sexual practices, and his experiences as a correspondent on the assembly center paper, the Tanforan Totalizer . The diary ends with his transfer to Gila River concentration camp.

Author Background

Charles Kikuchi, born in San Francisco, California, in 1917, was studying sociology at University of California, Berkeley, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was incarcerated at Tanforan assembly center and then Gila River concentration camp. He was recruited while at Tanforan to compile field surveys as part of the Japanese American Evacuation and Relocation Study (JERS), led by Berkeley sociologist Dorothy Swaine Thomas. He was encouraged to share his diary as part of this study as well because of his detailed observations. After the war he resettled in New York City, and continued to work as a social worker there.


The publication of The Kikuchi Diary was almost unanimously well-received. Some reviewers commented on the historical value of the diary, stating that "historians and social scientists can gain further insights into an 'insider's view' of the period." [1] Others praised the "vivid chronicle" for its attention to detail and Kikuchi's detailed observations of life at Tanforan. [2] The diary was also praised for contributing insight into the experiences of Nisei, specifically the "inner world" or contemporaneous reflections on the uncertainties and anxieties of the period. [3] The reviewers also commented on how atypical Kikuchi was among Nisei, and how his unusual "outsider" status gave him a unique perspective on the Japanese American community.

Authored by Emily Anderson

Might also like Nurse of Manzanar by Eto Toshiko Nakamura; Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writings, 1942-1945 by Yamato Ichihashi; The Evacuation Diary of Hatsuye Egami by Hatsuye Egami;


  1. Hata, Donald. Journal of American History 61.3 (Dec 1974): 835.
  2. Miyamoto, S. Frank. The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 66.1 (Jan 1975): 43.
  3. Rischin, Moses. Western Historical Quarterly 6.2 (April 1975): 206.
Media Details
Author John Modell
Pages 258
Publication Date 1973
For More Information

For More Information

Briones, Matthew M. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Lifelines with John Augustine (radio review of The Kikuchi Diary )

Charles Kikuchi Papers , UCLA Special Collections Library

Digital version of the unedited diary is now available as part of the JERS Archive at UC Berkeley



Hansen, Arthur A. Southern California Quarterly 59.3 (Oct. 1977): 324–29.

Hata, Donald . Journal of American History 61.3 (Dec 1974): 835-36.

Kirkus Reviews , Oct. 1, 1973.

LaViolette, Forrest E. Pacific Affairs 47.2 (Summer 1974): 257-258.

Miyamoto, S. Frank. The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 66.1 (Jan 1975): 43.

Rischin, Moses. Western Historical Quarterly 6.2 (April 1975): 206-207.

Uno, Edison. California Historical Quarterly 53.2 (Summer 1974): 184-185.

Wilson, Robert A. Pacific Historical Review 43.4 (1974): 621-622.