A Look at the Hobonichi Techo

This year I’ve started looking at journaling on a daily basis. The first two years I lived in Japan I actually used a hardcover Moleskine pocket notebook that I would write in on a weekly basis. It worked well but keeping a journal in something as small as a pocket notebook is frustrating for anything more substantial.

This led to me picking up a basic lined cahier style notebook from Typo which had recently opened up several stores in South Africa. Arriving back home in Japan, I was disappointed to find that the paper quality was pretty terrible and using a fountain pen with it led to plenty of bleedthrough and feathering. Pretty terrible for any sort of writing!

So with that failed journal experiment I was on the lookout for a new journal to use from the start of this year. A simple web search for popular journals available in Japan led me to stumbling on the Hobonichi Techo journal.

Hobonichi has been releasing these journals in Japan for more than a decade and they’ve proved popular with everyone from salarymen looking for a planner to use to schedule their meetings, to creative artists who use it to create an art journal filled with drawings and sketches. What had started out as a simple planner soon took on a life of its own.

That said, there are still a seemingly endless number of journals and planners out there so what is it that makes the Hobonichi any different from the competition?

The Hobonichi excels in that the quality of its paper is extremely high while at the same time being very thin so that the Techo can cram in nearly 400 pages and yet still be small and light. since it’s such good quality paper it manages to be perfect for just about any pen, marker, highlighter and ink, so people who love being creative and who enjoy using a wide variety of writing tools don’t need to worry about whether they will have any problems using the Techo. To see just what some people are capable of doing, a quick search on Tumblr or Pinterest will show you some of the amazing things people get up to with their Hobonichi’s.

Those of us (such as me) who are less creative use it simply because it is one of the best designed planners available with an excellent layout that helps with organizing a messy life. Each page is well designed with plenty of room for both daily appointments as well as space to jot down any notes you might need to make for any ideas or thoughts that pop into your head during the course of your day. There’s also a quote at the bottom of each page which is taken from interviews on the Hobonichi website and can sometimes serve as a source of inspiration if you find yourself stuck for something to write. The English version of the Techo comes with all the quotes translated into English as well which is a rather thoughtful detail.

There are also a lot of extra pages thrown-in in addition to the actual planner itself. The back section of the Techo comes with information on postal charges in Japan, how to avoid financial scams targeted towards older people, information about local plants and animals, pages for brief reviews of things you’ve seen, eaten or read, pages to write anniversaries, lists of gifts you’ve given and received, and a whole lot more! The English version also includes some helpful primers on Japanese culture such as a guide to the different types of Japanese alcohols and how to use a Japanese onsen bath.

Not only is the Hobonichi Techo itself well designed but it’s also very customizable with a wide variety of excellently designed covers that range from a plain and simple nylon cover in a basic color to more expensive covers in leather or other materials designed by famous brands or designers. One of the covers even features artwork from Mother 2 which was a SNES game developed by Shigesato Itoi himself! One thing to remember with regards to the covers are that they are refreshed every year along with the new year’s planners so this year’s designs may not be available next year.

One final way to customize your planner is to choose from the various sizes and styles of the Techo that Hobonichi offer. The original Techo comes in an A6 size which is compact and portable as it’s the same size as a Japanese paperback novel which means it’s easy to slip into a small bag when you travel. The larger Cousin version comes in an A5 size and while less portable than the original version it gives a lot more space for you to journal with. The final option you have is the smaller Weeks version which eschews the page a day format of the other two versions and is even smaller than the original Techo.

I’m sure I could go on and on but I’ll rather go ahead and point you towards the excellent Hobonichi site. They even ship internationally!