Friday, September 12, 2014

Hobonichi Techo

There's a craze sweeping America. It began a few years ago, infecting just a handful of people. Now its followers are numbering in the thousands, growing exponentially each year.

I am, of course, referring to the people using the Hobonichi Techo, a daily planner brought to us from Japan, whose popularity is due in no small part to my former roommate Lindsay. I've been using them for nearly two years now, and I've already placed an order for next year's planner. Today I'm going to talk about why I've grown attached to this craze, and why you might want to as well.

First, it's worth mentioning that Hobonichi is a company owned by famed Japanese copywriter Shigesato Itoi, most famous in North America for the SNES game EarthBound. Itoi is not a game designer by trade, but rather a writer or essays these days, and an advertising copywriter prior to that. His greatest ability, however, seems to be adding value to things through the power of language; a sort of superpower that writers strive for.

So, although the Hobonichi Techo is a very strong product in its own right, Itoi's superpower has turned a useful tool into a cultural phenomenon. Branded as a record of your life rather than a mere daily planner, people in Japan of all walks of life have taken to the Techo in droves. They use it in all sorts of creative ways, from simple planning out the day and writing in it as a journal, to filling the Techo with art or taping bits of things they've acquired over the course of the day into the book.

I personally mostly use the Techo to schedule events, create daily checklists, and keeps notes about what I've done each day. I'm not generally one to be too preoccupied with my past, but the book has proven very useful to plan out my future to some degree, and there have been a few times when being about to refer to past events have come in very handy for jogging my memory. For instance, when I recounted my trip to Japan a few months ago I was relying heavily on my Techo to recall each day's events.

However, I also occasionally get the itch to draw in my Techo, and for a while I would fill up the empty space on certain days by drawing people, particularly celebrities, just for fun. I drew in ink, mostly so I'd have to live with my mistakes and maybe learn to make confident strokes. Mostly I just had to live with my mistakes, though.

I posted the following picture to the planner's Facebook wall, since I knew they were always interested in seeing how English-speakers are using the planner:

Can you name these people?
Based on that image, the Techo folks got in touch with Lindsay and asked her to interview me for this year's Hobonichi Guide Book, a popular, annual publication that details the new things coming out related to the planner, as well as profiles on Techo users of all sorts. It was quite an honor having a two-page spread about me, though I'm not entirely sure what the article says since I don't read Japanese. I'm just going to assume it's flattering.

Cutting through my personal connection to the Techo and the culture around it, here's the specs on the planner that make it worth having:

First, the paper itself is very nice; a mix of thin, strong, and easy to write on that makes it a pleasure to write and draw on.

One of the biggest attractions to me was the way the planner dedicates an entire page to each day of the year. Each page notes the day of the month, the day of the week, the week of the year, the number of days into the year, the number of days until the end of the year, the phase of the moon, and which countries celebrate the day as a holiday, if any. Every two days there's also a quote, taken from Shigesato Itoi or one of him many wise, helpful associates.

The bulk of each page is taken up by a grid, with a side bar that helps organize the grid into hours of the day if you use it for that purpose. The planner also includes monthly planning pages near the beginning of the book and blank grid pages for notes at the end of the book.

Finally, the Techo can be used along with a helpful cover which protects the book and contains various pockets and such for whatever you need. Many covers can be personalized, and they come in many styles from fairly cheap, plain ones to really high-end covers that cost many times more than the planner itself. The covers are generally reused from year to year, however, so it's likely more of an investment than the planner.

I enjoy using the planner, and I intend to keep supporting Lindsay and Itoi-san for years to come. I hope that this planner keeps spreading here in North America~

No comments:

Post a Comment