I’ll step up and proclaim it loudly: the Hobonichi Techo is the best planner in the world.
The Hobonichi Techo is made in Japan by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun and has been around since 2001.1 In 2012, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun teamed up with ARTS&SCIENCE — a store headed by stylist Sonya Park — to bring the popular Techo to the English language.
I’m a little late to the Hobonichi party. I only became entranced in the pen and paper world in the spring of last year, and I only learned of the Techo sometime during the summer. As a result, I held off on purchasing the popular planner until the new year.
In hindsight, I definitely should have bought the Techo in the summer.
There are a couple things which make the Techo stand out from the rest of the crowd. Its compact size, its page-per-day format, and its Tomoe River paper make it a true jack-of-all-trades in the planner world. So much so, in fact, that I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to call the Techo a “planner” per se. The Techo could be used as a planner, but it could instead be used as a journal, a daily log, or a simple notebook. Its utility is endless.
The Hobonichi Techo greets you with a very simple utilitarian cover. The cover is made of a thick card stock that is durable and usable. The Japanese characters for te and cho are stamped in gold foil on the front of the cover and are accompanied with the ARTS&SCIENCE logo.
As you can see above, the heavy cover stock is leather-like in nature. This helps to avoid ruined cover corners or tearing of the cover pages. As a perfectionist who likes to keep everything in pristine condition, I appreciate the durable front cover.
With that said though, I envision buying a leather cover for this book in the near future. There is a considerable market for after-market Hobonichi Techo covers and some of the leather designs are screaming my name.
The edge of the Techo’s pages have been encoded to help you jump to the right month when opening the book. Like many other planners, this is a nice touch for organization purposes.
The Techo has been designed with a lay-flat binding that is impeccable. Every page, almost anywhere in the book, can lay flat on a table. The pages are bound in a special stitch binding that is difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. If you’re really ambitious, the book can fold around on itself as well.
The minimal covers protect the pure treasure found inside the Hobonichi Techo: Tomoe River paper. The Techo is the first notebook I’ve purchased that has come with Tomoe River paper, and after reading about Tomoe River’s incredible qualities, I was chomping at the bit to understand what all the fuss was about.
Tomoe River paper offers the best writing experience. The paper is ultra smooth and ultra absorbent for the wettest fountain pens. Putting nib to paper offers an almost surreal touch that has yet to get old after about a month of use. There are no hiccups or bumps along the way — whichever pen you choose, you’re sure to enjoy writing in this book.
Somehow, some way, Tomoe River paper is also impossibly thin. The paper feels as thin as the paper found in Bibles. This paper thinness allows the Techo to pack a full page-per-day format all within a compact 1/2” to 3/4” thick book.
The thinness of the Tomoe River paper does mean that you’ll experience some showthrough on the backside of the page if you use heavier or darker inks. I’ve also found fountain pen inks take a fair amount of time to dry. However, considering Tomoe River’s ability to absorb the ink and to not suffer from any bleedthrough, I’m willing to make these tradeoffs any day of the week.
The page-per-day format is a dream come true for people who need to plan their weekends in the same way they plan their weekdays. Each page has a timeline on the left margin and a small 4mm graph grid. I have found the grid to be a bit small for comfortable writing, but it does force you to keep compact notes. I keep my major daily tasks organized on the right margin while I plan my day with brackets on the timeline. It’s a simple way to log my major activities each day.
Sundays are highlighted with red grids and red printing. Again, this is another perfect touch for me. Life is busy, and keeping work-related tasks within only the five weekdays is difficult. As a result, Saturdays often become work days. Jac and I work really hard to keep Sunday as a day of rest, so the red printing on Sundays (coincidentally) applies perfectly to our routines.
The bottom of each page sports a unique quote and a mini monthly calendar showing the placement of the two days in the month.
I personally have little use for the quotes and would like to have the extra space for a larger grid. Depending on how you break down the timeline in the left margin (I break it down hourly and give each hour two squares), you’ll find the day ends off around 7:30PM. If you break it down tighter and give yourself only one square per hour, things become too tight and there isn’t enough room to properly plan activities throughout the day. Therefore, since my days often head well past the 7:30PM mark, I would choose to eliminate the quotes and mini calendar and implement a larger grid area on each page instead.
The top of each page marks the date, the day of the week, the month, the week of the year, and the phase of the moon. All the type is printed in a minimal font and is very easy to read. There are also small red abbreviations which signify international holidays throughout the year. Each of these international holidays are outlined in a list in the back of the book and are a nice touch to the information on the top of each page.
The back of the Techo is packed with interesting information for some casual reading throughout the year. There are a few extra pages of dot grid paper for some long form notes, some international size and country code charts, and some how-to guides.
The front of the Techo has a section dedicated to monthly calendars with a nice to-do list on the left margin, as well as a very unique monthly index. I love this monthly index — each week, I go back and recap my week by writing out the theme or major activity of each day in the index. This way, in the future, I’ll be able to visit the front index and quickly find out the major events of my life without having to flip through the entire book.
There are a ton of features packed into the Hobonichi Techo. The outside cover is very thick and isn’t susceptible to bending or edge fraying. The innard Tomoe River paper is a seemingly impossible dream come true, from the writing experience through to its thinness. And the overall format of the Techo planner system is well thought out and conducive for heavy organization and planning.
I have very few nitpicks for the Techo. I have no use for the quotes on the bottom of each page, and I wouldn’t mind a larger format for better daily logging. Having said that, the compact size of the Techo allows for it to be stowed easily in the smallest of bags.
I bought both my wife and I a Hobonichi Techo as a 2015 “resolution” gift. We both understood how busy our lives would become in 2015 and we wanted a simple way to stay on top of everything. A solid three weeks in, and my wife has boldly stated that she loves her Techo. It’s the perfect planner for her. And it’s the perfect planner for me as well.
Not that we are representative of everyone, but if the Hobonichi Techo is the perfect planner for both my wife and I, chances are it’ll be the perfect planner for you too.