Review: Hobonichi Planner 2014

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

Over the last few months, I’ve heard a lot of interest in the Hobonichi Planner. The name roughly translates to ‘Just about everyday planner’. The first aspect of this planner that piqued my interest was that it is filled with the much-coveted Tomoe River paper, known for its fountain pen friendliness. It’s also considered one of the most well-loved, easy-to-use planners. The combination of those two things meant I desperately wanted to try it for myself. Since there is now an English language edition, there was no reason not to try it.


What I didn’t know was that the Hobonichi planner was part of a much larger project by Shigesato Itoi. He is a well-known figure in Japan for being a advertising copywriter, creator of Nintendo Mother 2/Earthbound video game, voice actor in the epic Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro and the founder of online publication Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun (Almost-Daily Itoi Newspaper). The planner was originally part of the site’s shop to generate revenue instead of selling ads. The planner has been made in Japanese for over 12 years but in 2013, the first English edition was published.

Following the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, many victims lamented the loss of their beloved planner so Itoi decided to give free planners away to any tsunami victim who had lost theirs in the disaster. Over 1400 people took him up on his offer and he’s received thank you notes and kind words for helping victims get their paper lives back. That shows the dedication of the fans to the planner and how much Shigesato Itoi appreciates that loyalty.

About the planner:

Hobonichi 2014 planner

Now, let’s get into the details of the planner. The planner itself is a small book, covered with a flexible black leatherette cover stamped with gold foil (¥2,500, approx. $24.50). The stamped charaters say “techo” along with the key logo for Arts & Sciences. The book is perfect-bound with the date and “HOBO” foil stamped on the spine. The standard planner is a lot smaller than I thought it would be: 15cm x 10.5cm (4.125″x5.875″). The planner is just 1.5cm thick (0.625″) which is due in large part to the Tomoe River paper’s thinness since this is a page-a-day planner so there are a lot of pages crammed into a small space (over 400 pages!).

Hobonichi 2014 planner

Hobonichi planner

Most pages feature a petite 4mm grid in dotted grey lines. There are blank pages in the back of the book for notes that feature a red dot grid (also at 4mm spacing).

There are tabs along the edge of the pages to indicate each month. Sunday pages are printed in red and Saturday and Sunday get FULL PAGES. Most planners give Saturday and Sunday a shared page, if that much so if you work a unique schedule or fit as much in on the weekends as you do during the week, then you will really appreciate this.

At the bottom of each two-page spread is a quote, many from Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shimbun and well-known figures in Japanese culture. Some are thoughtful, some are light-hearted and silly.

Hobonichi planner

December is a “head start” with 2-days-on-a-page in a long vertical space. Its perfect for writing out all those holiday must-do’s and to get a sense of how the planner will perform for you. In just the few days I’ve been using it, the page size doesn’t seem so small. It seems just right. There’s room enough for my notes, to-do’s and calendar activities without being too large to keep it with me.

Hobonichi planner

In the back of the planner there are some informational pages like international calling codes, holidays, a guide to sushi and sake, and tea around the world. These might not be a necessity but they do provide some entertaining reading while you’re waiting for the next meeting to start. In the research I did, it appears that the 2013 edition included different factoids in the back. Something to look forward to for next year is what might be included in the back!

For even more detailed information about what’s inside the Hobonichi planner, visit the Closer Look pages.

Hobonichi planner

The paper is a unique experience. Its very lightweight and my instincts tell me that ink would bleed through it easily but that is not the case at all. I tend to use a multi-pen in my planner so total fountain-pen-friendly isn’t a key factor for me in selecting a planner but a planner that IS fountain pen friendly is a real bonus.

For a detailed review of the Tomoe River paper, the stock used in the Hobonichi planner, Azizah of Gourmet Pens did a fabulous write-up for FP Geeks.

Hobonichi planner

I tested an assortment of pens from my tried-and-true Marvy Le Pens to a range of Uni, Pilot and Zebra gel multi-pens, pencils and even fontain pens. None of the inks bled or feathered or did anything unacceptable. As others have mentioned, with heavier ink deposits on Tomoe River paper, take longer to dry so proceed with caution there so you don’t get transfer onto the facing page but it also means that you can use whatever tool you have in your hand from the finest of gel pens to the juiciest of fountain pens without the ink bleeding or feathering.

Hobonichi planner

From the back of the page, you can see the inks through the paper but there is no bleeding at all despite the thinness of the stock. Pretty amazing.

Hobonichi planner

I folded a page back so that it would be easier to see that even the printing is visible through the stock.

About the Cover:

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

I received one of the simple nylon covers in a bright, true blue. It features loads of pockets and an interlocking pen loop that, when a pen is slipped through the loops, the planner stays closed. Quite ingenious. The loops are large enough to hold a thick multi-pen or a slender fountain pen if you slip the clip over the loop.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

The cover also has two matching grosgrain ribbon bookmarks. One has a triangle shape at the end and the other is a rectangle, both in a leather-like PU. As a user, you get to decide what marks what page. I use the rectangle to mark the month-at-a-glance calender page and the triangle to mark today’s page.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

Inside, the cover has lots of pockets and slots to hold cards, reciepts and paper ephemera. There are embroidered tags in the back with the words HOBONICHI and another with the year 2014.

Hobonichi 2014 planner cover

My planner also shipped with the protective plastic sleeve that fits perfectly over the nylon cover. The plastic cover includes a ziploc-style opening on the back to allow access to the outside pocket on the cover. While it feels a bit like plastic on the furniture, it does protect the outside of the planner cover, should I want to add additional customization like stickers or artwork or just slide a photo in between the cover and the protective sleeve.

There are lots of options for covers for the Hobonichi planner. The prices for covers range from ¥1,900 for a nylon cover to ¥31,500 (approx. $18.50- $300) for a leather cover with stitching (that high-end cover can only be shipped within Japan) at present. Several covers are scheduled to be restocked in the next couple days so check back regularly.

How to Order:

I think what’s stopped a lot of people from trying the Hobonichi planner is that ordering from Japan was a bit challenging. Well, that’s been remedied thanks to the work of Lindsay, a translator working for Hobonichi and a big fan of the planner herself. She’s translated the ordering process to be pretty seamless. The whole ordering process is in English if you use the links I’ve included here.

She’s even created a guide to help non-Japanese speakers order from any Japanese web site.

For more about the  Hobonichi Techo planner, it’s thriving community and other reviews:

In closing:

This is one of the best planners I’ve ever had. The size is good, the paper is exceptional, the light grid lines are easy-to-use with most ink colors and the details within the book are spot-on. If you’re inclined to use a planner this year, this would be my first recommendation.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Lindsay for Hobonichi Planner for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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14 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have been using mine for a couple of days. Choose your inks carefully or learn to blot because the drying time is a factor. One of my inks was still smearing and transferring after 15 minutes.

  2. I’ve tried following the posted instructions but they seem to correspond to ordering the 2013 planner. Somehow I was able to land on the 2014 ordering page but the instructions were half Japanese. The product photos showed an English planner but I couldn’t find anything that said “English” version in the ordering confirmation page. Now I’m not sure what I ordered! I can’t seem to find that information on my order. Any suggestions??

  3. Thanks for sharing these pictures. My Hobonichi is wrapped up and under the Christmas tree so I can’t see mine yet! I’m going to use it as a gratitude journal.

  4. I have this planner with a similar cover (I have the black leather) and the two markers, which I use the same exact way as you, have spoiled me. I use to carry a notebook around to write in, but since they only have one page marker I’ve decided to go with a Maruman Mnemosyne B6 memo pad for an easy rip-out and process work flow. This planner has made me rethink so many things and I wonder what has it made you rethink? Also what do you keep in the cover? I keep some index cards, circular paper clips, drafting dots, some cash, blank playing cards, and some slips of paper with same sized pre-stamped envelops.

  5. 2014 will be my second Hobo. For me, it’s the perfect planner. A few tips from things I’ve learnt over the past year :-
    – slip a small sheet of blotting paper into one of the pockets. Drying time can be extended for certain pen/ink combos
    – most successful pen for me is a Pilot Prera M with black Pilot/Namiki ink
    – some of the add-ons are worth buying. You can only order most of these from the Japanese site but it’s easy to use and the shopping cart can be translated into English
    – buy the small pencil board as a buffer between pages when writing. It’s not expensive and protects the soft Tomoe paper
    – the Hobo is a standard A6 so fits in a number of other notebook covers e.g Midori MD, Mnemosyne, and generic covers
    – the Hobo works as a perfect BulletJournal, especially as it has the yearly pages and the blank “plan ahead” day at the start of each month.

    There are so many positives about it. I love this planner. Highly recommended

    1. Oh jeez! I’ve been contemplating one for a while, but just had to try it out given this post! Can’t wait til my Plaid covers come along with this Planner. Sounds like its fantastic…I wonder how it’ll be compared to a Filofax? Anyway, hoping 2015 is a fun & more organized year 🙂

  6. I tried but was thwarted by the ordering process. I ended up buying a Plannerisms planner and haven’t looked back (well, maybe a little, it’s not as fountain pen friendly as the Hobonichi). I like the planning strategies in Plannerisms. However, doesn’t mean I won’t try Hobonichi if I can ever figure out the ordering process!

  7. After reading all your reviews and as well as others plus researching anything I could get my hands on, I did purchase a Hobonichi 2016 English version. I am going to use it as a planner (appointments, to dos, etc.) I found that purchasing a couple of their templates will go along way to enhance the use of this type of planner. I spent about $100 including shipping for the planner, cover, plastic cover, templates, writing board, and other accessories. The planner is small, but not much smaller than my Filofax. It lays flat, no rings to deal with. The paper is great. I found that using a fine tip ball point pen and a fine tip mechanical pencil works fine. This avoids bleeding issues. The only drawback that I have found are the pen loops, feels like an after thought. I cut them off and am using a Midori pen loop, works better.

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