If you haven’t heard of the Hobonichi Techo, let us introduce you to this Japanese planner with the kind of fan following normally enjoyed by celebrities and not stationery. The word “techo” means planner notebook in Japanese, and this one has been growing its devoted fan base for over twenty years.
For a stationery item with such a big fan following, the Hobonichi Techo has a surprising origin story. It wasn’t developed by a stationery company, a publishing company, or even a personal planning guru. Rather, it grew out of 1101.com, the personal blog of Japanese copywriter, essayist, video game designer, and actor Shigesato Itoi. (Among his many accomplishments, he’s known for working on Nintendo’s Mother / EarthBound game series, voicing the character of Mei and Satsuki’s father in My Neighbor Totoro, and coauthoring a book of short stories with Haruki Murakami.) On his blog, Itoi publishes essays and interviews with a focus on lifestyle, spirituality, and philosophy. The popular website is known as Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (Almost Daily Itoi News), or Hobonichi, for short.
In 2001, the Hobonichi team was exploring the possibility of launching original products for their site, and posed the idea of a planner to their enthusiastic readers. They set out to design a planner with all the features they’d want to use themselves—and as it turned out, a lot of other people wanted to use it too.
The Hobonichi Techo is simple enough on the surface, but it’s packed with details that make it an extremely useful planner, while still maintaining an open-ended format that doesn’t box users in to organizing their plans in any rigid way.
The Techo’s main concept is to give you one page for every day of the year, to arrange as you like. Each page of the planner is headed with the date, day of the week, and phase of the moon, and the footer of each page has a thought-provoking quote from Itoi’s website, plus a mini monthly calendar for quick reference. Beyond that, the pages remain pretty open-ended. They have a grid background which provides guidance if you want to divide the pages, draw boxes, create checklists, or write journal entries, but the grid is light enough to disregard if you prefer to sketch or go free-form. Along the left side of the page is a thin timeline column which can be used to create an hourly schedule or can just as easily be ignored.
Beyond the daily pages, the Techo has useful monthly and yearly overviews. It includes a calendar of dates for the year, plus monthly calendar spreads so you can see the whole month at a glance. It has a yearly index including every day of the year, which can be used as a table of contents, a reference for birthdays and important dates, or a habit tracker. At the end of the planner are extras including additional pages for notes, a place for important contacts, and a “My 100” list that you can use for anything you like: books you’ve read, places to travel, top meals, or more.
Physically, the Techo is just as thoughtfully designed. It’s got lay flat binding, of course, so you never have to wrestle your planner to stay open. The pages are made with Tomoe River paper, a very thin but very high quality paper that keeps the planner slim. Fountain pen users may be familiar with this paper, which is smooth, bleed resistant, and delicious to write on. Even the color of the printing is thoughtful: Sunday pages are printed in red, so you always know where the beginning of the week lies.
Part of the fun of this planner lies in accessorizing! Hobonichi makes cute covers for their planners that are, unsurprisingly, equally useful. The covers include two pen loops that serve as a closure for your Techo when a pen is inserted. They have two bookmarks attached to help you keep your place. And they’re designed with a plethora of pockets that can hold credit cards, business cards, stamps, tickets, sticky notes, and other odds and ends. If you carry your planner with you everywhere, the cover adds a fantastic layer of organization.
Hobonichi now makes planners in three sizes: the original A6 size Hobonichi Techo, the larger A5 size Cousin version, and the tall but slim Weeks version that lets you see the whole week on one page instead of one page per day.
The genius of the Techo is that it provides just enough guidance to be useful on a daily basis without boxing you into a particular format. It has all the reference information you need—dates, calendars, even a bit of daily inspiration—but otherwise, you can use it however it best suits your needs, even varying your usage from day to day. It makes a great diary, journal, or daily sketchbook, giving you space to write a little bit every day. The Techo is popular for bullet journaling, with its built-in index and grid format pages. And it’s very useful as a traditional planner, with plenty of space to write down appointments and lists on each day’s page.
Do you have a Hobonichi Techo? Let us know how you like to use yours in the comments below!
Check out our Hobonichi Collection to see the original Techo, the Hobonichi Cousin, the Weeks planner, and more!