Logically speaking, I love fountain pens and I love organising my life. It stands to reason that a paper planner that’s fountain pen friendly would be a hit with me, but sadly, as a forewarning – I dislike the Hobonichi Techo intensely and use it to test pens and scribble. Nothing else. This is not (only) due to design quirks that the Hobo is famed for, but primarily due to my failed mental state and consequent inability to treat a planner as only a planner without being drawn into a spiral of insanity (I tried, but eventually gave up completely on any Hobonichi project).
I bought the Hobo because everyone else bought the Hobo and being a lemming seemed fun. Out of the wrapper, it’s pretty by any objective metric – very traditional with a bible-like texture and binding, but with sexy stylish flourishes that I am utterly smitten with. The typography is top notch, both in terms of branding and on the paper itself, as well as featuring a congruent design that (if you like it) meshes well with its own brand of sub-culture.
If you browse HobonichiLove, it quickly becomes apparent that the Techo is more than a simple A6 planner. It’s a conscious lifestyle choice that certain people embrace wholeheartedly. Not me.
But I get it.
My primary issue is structure – I am OCD when it comes to my data with complex systems in place to manage lists and protocols. This can be extremely overwhelming, but oddly, I make it work. The Hobo has its own structure. It’s an inflexible 1 page a day planner with lofty artistic ambition. The price is high and I feel remiss to simply use it to write down appointments, which leads to a sense of forced artistic exploration at importune moments which I almost immediately regret and results in me ripping out the page.
My daily planner is a Moleskine because it’s not designed to be artistic – it’s used to scribble to do’s and dates. Nothing more. I don’t use a fountain pen and I don’t doodle so I find myself not caring about the aesthetic presentation of the piece. When it comes to the Hobonichi Techo, even though no one will see it – I care greatly about its artistic uniformity. I don’t want to write down a shopping list on one day and splash out some J. Herbin Gold Specked ink swirls on another.
It leaves me with a disjointed feeling as I hold this planner. What is its purpose? Is it a sketchbook? A productivity tool? In a lot of ways, its all the above and everything in between. It’s whatever you want it to be as long as you understand that it’s not a blank page of paper, and consequently it forces a daily structure – whether you like it or not. For me, this is not a compromise I can stomach, but for some (and it seems, a lot) of you, it’s the perfect planner, so I will leave it at that. It’s nicely made with nice paper (more on this later), but it just doesn’t work for me.
When it comes to bundling crap, I think Hobonichi went all out with the “What could people possibly want from a planner?” route. I know Tomoe River paper is ridiculously lightweight at 52 gsm (you read that right), but holy shit guys. We have a 12 month grid calendar (which you will circle a few dates on and never check on again. Ever).
A monthly daily line calendar is included as well. Somewhat more useful, but still superfluous to requirement, although straight up – I reckon it’s probably the most useful of the “extra” calendars bundled.
5 x 6 grid daily scheduler/planner too. Just in case you needed even more space for important info.
And finally, the 1 page a day planner that everyone actually uses. Faded black grid from Monday to Saturday and faded red on Sundays. Nothing ground breaking here beyond all the crap above and under the sections you are supposed to use.
The amount of dead space cobbled up by the design team over at Hobonichi is frankly horrifying. Its already a small(ish) planner with its standard A6/B6 size, but with the giant typography on the top, time line (which I have always found useless) on the left, as well as the 1 inch block of space reserved for a quote on the bottom, your ability to crank out scribbles is seriously hampered. The quotes in particular are extremely irritating to me. I know being Japanese and thus vogue as shit, I am supposed to gain a sense of daily wisdom from them, but in actuality, if you want a taster, just look at your relative’s Twitter feed: you know the one, constantly posting all the crappy inspirational quotes on a sunrise background.
This does not inspire me. This fills me with rage much like Starbucks, pugs, and people being happy with their lives.
Ridiculous. Stop it. Please.
The best thing about the Hobo is the paper. Some caveats though – it’s super super lightweight, which means it’s easy to leave a physical imprint with your nib – especially if you scribble with a toothy nail. The Hobonichi is fountain pen friendly but once again, very lightweight, which means the ink takes forever to dry and finally it is, you guessed it – super lightweight and thus whilst bleedthrough is extremely rare – it does ghost.
These are not criticisms, merely caveats, as they are a byproduct of having a 52 gsm sliver of paper drenched with ink. You’re gonna get what you’re gonna get.
Only bleedthrough I noticed was with a sharpie. Which is pretty fucking fantastic. I absolutely love Tomoe River paper and have no issues with its ghosting or ink absorption properties, but using it is very different from traditionally “fountain pen friendly” paper like the Clairefontaine Vellum stuff.
You also get a few sheets of dot grid paper. The sad thing about its existence is my yearning for the whole planner to simply be dot grid. Light grey if possible (I have found a solution, read the conclusion).
More stuff for you to read. The Hobo offers a lot of paper for your pen. Sadly, a significant proportion of the planner has already been defaced with garbage you would normally google for. When shopping for hipster trilby hats on Etsy, will you reach for your Hobo for the size conversion or will you just Google it like a productive member of society?
Don’t answer that, I need to retain whatever little faith I have left in humanity.
So yes. By now you realise that this is clearly not the planner for me and you are probably (if you are a fan) distraught at the literary reaming I just gave this innocent slab of chewed up trees. I get it, it’s not for me and I shan’t ever buy one again.
With that said, it is superbly made with fantastic paper and if you are the structured/daily art ink puddle maker kinda bloke or gal, then I reckon this is a solid choice. You have the luxury of a standard format to (suffer through) scribble in year after year as well as a bustling community to share your Washi tape collection & various discordant ink blobs with. That’s cool, and if I could get into it, I really would.
Thankfully, the wood pulp gods have answered me and created the Stalogy B6 notebook/planner which is basically the same (literally) as the Hobonichi Techo, but without all the crappy dead space nor superfluous informational pages. If like me your brain can’t handle the Techo’s level of structure, then I would advise you to get that instead. At the end of the day, the Techo is unique (albeit, quite expensive) and fits a role and subculture that doesn’t have any tangible competition. A lot of people do incredible things with their Techos, to the point that calling it art is a fair assessment. I can’t do it and this has obviously rendered me bitter and full of spite so ignore me and my blatant bias and give it a shot…
…Or realise that you are no longer a toddler and can control your own life without evil Japanese planner designers vying to control you with twisted propaganda and positive quotes.
Ok, I’ll see myself out.