First English translation of a wartime diary written by a Japanese civilian

19 April 2022
Hiroko Cockerill.

Japanese civilian Miyakatsu Koike’s wartime diary during his internment in Loveday Camp South Australia has been translated in English for the first time by UQ honorary research fellow Hiroko Cockerill.

The diary describes his arrest while working as a bank clerk in Indonesia (at the time known as the Dutch East Indies) in December 1941, his internment in Australia from January 1942 to February 1946, and his subsequent repatriation to his war-torn homeland.

Titled ‘Four Years in a Red Coat: The Loveday Internment Camp diary of Miyakatsu Koike’, the diary gives rare insights into a Japanese civilian’s endurance through sustained adversity.

"14 March 1946

…We boarded the train at midnight. Unfortunately, we could not find any empty seats, and stood talking for a while. Then I heard from my wife that my father had died while I was interned (my mother had died from illness earlier, in 1927). Both my wife’s parents and three of my uncles had also died, I also heard that my first son, who was due to be born in March 1942, had died a week after birth. Almost 11 years had passed since I left Japan in May 1935. I was, indeed, an unfilial son, who had returned home not knowing of my own father’s death. The train was heading due west in the darkness. On the way, I was pleased to see Mt Fuji, as beautiful as ever, greeting me, a poor repatriated person."

Koike’s stoic attitude is shown most clearly in the fact that he did not publish his diary until 1987, when he was 82 years of age, and then only in a limited edition, entirely for the benefit of his friends and former employees of the Tokyo Bank (formerly the Yokohama Specie Bank).

With a repertoire of books and translations, Hiroko has also taught Japanese at various universities in Australia for more than twenty years, having obtained her PhD from UQ in the field of literary translation from Russian to Japanese.

Read more about the what the translated diary reveals about the WWII Japanese internee's experience in South Australia's Loveday.