I bought a Hobonichi planner at the beginning of a pandemic lockdown. Here’s what I did with it:
Back in March of 2020 I ordered a Hobonichi Techo planner as a birthday present to myself. The notebook that I was using as a sort-of-planner was a disorganized mess, and I was looking for something small and low maintenance. My A6 Hobonichi ended up being just right for the rest of 2020.
Hobonichi Techo planners come in both A6, A5, and slim wallet sizes, and are available in Japanese and English languages. The English language editions sell out quickly. They can be used as part of a system with a cover and various accessories, but I just got the planner book by itself. At the time of purchase, I was able to get a spring edition that begins in April of 2020 and ends in March of 2021. At the beginning of January I tried starting a fresh new journal, but have since went back to using the Hobonichi because I want to finish it.
Without a job and very few dates to remember, I used the calendar section at the beginning of the book to track when I left the house and where I went. During this age of Covid-19, I’ve been the main person in my household running errands. With this information written down I could go back and look at when the last time I left the house was, and how many times I went out in a month.
For the daily pages, the Hobonichi has a very nice layout. In the top left corner there’s the date and weekday as well as any applicable holidays. In the top right corner there’s a little area with five checkboxes for a to-do list. The rest of the page is gridded with subtle lines that are different colors for each month. At the bottom of the page there is a daily quote. Since my version is in Japanese, I ended up handwriting the day of the week and applicable holiday. I also wrote down what number day of my lockdown it was; the last day I logged was number 281. By the middle of the year it’s gonna be like Blast From The Past when Brendan Fraser’s character first leaves the bunker.
In the to-do list section I wrote down basic household tasks like chores and daily reminders. The five checkboxes were not limiting and helped me to focus on those five or less things. In the blank gridded area I would sometimes doodle or test pens and inks. At the beginning of each month there’s a blank page, and sometimes I would write a quote for the month.
In the back of the planner there are some plain gridded pages that allow more space for notes or sketches. Then there’s a time table where you can write out a weekly schedule. After that, there’s two pages formatted for a graph or chart. There are several pages of literature about Japanese culture. There are also pages to list your top 100 anything, and pages for your favorite restaurants and music or movies. The Hobonichi Techo planners are both fun and practical.
As for the paper, Hobonichi uses Tomoe River. To accommodate the slow dry times I used a Robert Oster blotter card as a bookmark. I usually would just leave the planner open for a few minutes in between writing to give the ink time to dry. When I was done writing, I would put the card over the last thing I wrote and close the case. This worked fine with most inks, except for some very wet Noodlers ones like Golden Brown and Black Swan in Australian Roses. Inks that sheen on most papers, like Organics Studio Nitrogen, really smear on Tomoe River, even after drying. There’s a lot of ghosting because the paper is so thin, but very few inks bled through to the back of the page, and no inks bled onto the next page. Noodlers Blue Nosed Bear bled, as well as J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor.
I kept my planner in a Nock Co. A6 Seed case, which works great. These cases have two pen slots on the inside, a card slot on the other, and an outside pocket. When your notebook is fully in one of these cases, the front cover can get warped because it sits behind the pen slots. This is really only an issue if the notebook you’re using has a cover that you care about, and it can be fixed by leaving the front cover out of the sleeve. I could say more wonderful things about the Seed, but that’s for a different post.
Overall, the Hobonichi A6 Techo has been a nice and low maintenance planner. The one-page-a-day format on smaller paper is perfect for anyone who has anxiety about committing to a larger notebook. It helped me manage daily tasks and keep track of the days. The minimalist aesthetic of the daily pages can be used as intended for to-do lists and short journal entries, or you can just draw all over it. I would definitely use one of these again.