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:
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Hobonichi Love
- Hobonichi Techo Planner Pool on Flickr
- The Unofficial Guide to the Hobonichi Techo Planner
- Hobonichi on Ping Magazine
- Official Hobonichi Planner Facebook Page
- A beloved Japanese Day Planner Goes Global (via Boing Boing)
- Review of the 2013 Hobonichi Planner (via Tiny Cartridge)
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.