A manifesto for a more wondrous age.

I got a few questions after my post on my goals for the year, specifically about the Hobonichi Techo. I’ve wanted to talk a bit about this notebook for a while, & this seems like a perfect opportunity.

The Hobonichi Techo is a Japanese planner notebook created by Shigesato Itoi for his company “Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun” (Almost Daily Itoi News). Shigesato Itoi is a renaissance man, known for his writing of copy, essays, & his website, as well as being the designer of the “Mother” video game series, a songwriter, & much more. Seriously, go check out this guy’s wikipedia page.

His company provides articles without advertisements almost daily, as the name implies, as well as selling lifestyle products. The most famous of which is the Hobonichi Techo.

The notebook made its English debut in 2012 in a collaboration with company ARTS&SCIENCE, & has been offered in English ever since.

The English edition has a black textured cover, with three images printed in gold on it. The first two are Japanese characters, for planner, & the third is the logo for ARTS&SCIENCE, three crossed keys. It looks very sleek.

The first thing you notice when you open the box is how small the planner actually is. It’s in A6 size, so it’s roughly 6”x4”. The build quality is very nice.

The book is made of extremely high quality Tomoe River paper, in a 4mm grid. The paper is super thin, sort of like you might find in a dictionary or a bible. This paper is well-known among stationary fans for being extremely durable, & highly resistant to bleed through for fountain pens. (Yes, people still use fountain pens, & they’re a joy to write with.)

I’m still waiting to receive my 2017 version, but it should be largely the same as the 2016. I’ll update this post if any of the sections have been revised.

The first page lists all the days of the year, showing all the months on a single page. The next section is has two months per page, listed down in vertical columns. Past that, each month gets its own page, in a traditional calendar display, with room on the side for a key or general information to be written down. Finally past that we get into the meat of the notebook.

The “gist” of the Hobonichi is simple: Every day of the year gets a single page. On the page before the new month, there’s a lined page with the heading “Coming Up! January” (or whatever month may apply.)

The single day pages are elegant, with a header, body, & footer section. In the header, the number of the day is listed in the top left corner. Next to that, a column lists the day of the week, the month, & the week of the year. Next, the phase of the moon as well as the day in the year. (001 for Jan 1st, & 149 for May 28th etc.)

In the body, there is a small ruling line along the left border, two boxes in on the grid. It has a “twelve” just above halfway, for noon, if you want to correlate your writing to the hours of the day. The border also has a small fork & knife icon, as a section to log your meals. The right side of the body field has a month number in a box. The rest of the body is open grid, to be utilized however you see fit.

In the footer, each two-day spread gets a quote. If you are an avid reader of this blog, you know I love quotes. These are especially interesting, & curated by Shigesato Itoi (or written by him!) These quotes range from the philosophical to the humorous, & have informed my life in various ways. For example, the December 1st quote last year was:

“Quickly discovering you can’t do something is as valuable as quickly discovering you can." — Zoonie Yamada, Instructor Composition and Communication, "Essay Lessons for Adults"

Last year was my first year using the planner, but now I have fully integrated it into my lifestyle. Here’s how I intend to use it this year:

In the first few lines of the daily pages, I write when I start & stop an activity. These activities are either things that pertain to my goals, or are otherwise useful “input & output” activities. For example, I’d log how long I read for, or how long I worked out for, even though time isn’t a component of the resolutions I made this week.

This information will be used to monitor & adjust how I’m spending my time, & I intend to log these as data visualizations on a weekly, monthly, & eventually quarterly basis.

Next, I take the information & sit down to write a summary / write up of my day. This is sort of a free write / prose section. This is a chance to summarize my day in a journal format, something accessible to me that I could look back on & get a sense of what I did that day. This drifts between being more documentarian or more stylized depending on the day.

Finally, the bottom section is my intake. I don’t have any dietary goals for this year, but listing exactly what’s going into my stomach each day can help to make healthier choices in a more generalized way. I have been thinking about expanding this into all my input items, including information.

Using the Hobonichi forces me to be more introspective & conscious about the decisions I am making, as well as how I am spending my days. Clearly, that sort of introspective thinking is something I want to convey via writing, but this is a way to internalize it, as well as logging & monitoring how I’m performing. It’s an invaluable tool, not just for writers, but anyone looking to hold themselves accountable.

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