Hobonichi Planner Review

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

The Hobonichi planner is a Japanese diary/calendar made by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun. Originally only in Japanese, the planner is now available in English (but see below) and can be ordered through the Hobonichi (English) store. It comes in two sizes: the A6 Techo (5.8"x 4.1") and the A5 Cousin (8.3"x 5.8"). Unfortunately, only the Techo is available in English. Apparently the company offers the Cousin only in Japanese. The Hobonichi uses Tomoe River Paper, a high-quality, super-thin, fountain-pen-friendly paper, which is one of the reasons so many people love this planner.

The Hobonichi is quite a phenomenon in Japan, and excitement about it has spread to the United States. Not only are entire blogs dedicated to this planner, but you can find Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest pages all focused on the Hobonichi.

Last fall, I ordered a Hobonichi Techo 2015 (twelve month), complete with a Hobonichi cover, a plastic cover, and a few accessories. It arrived from Japan fairly quickly, and I opened the box with great anticipation. I wanted to love the Techo. But it was smaller than I expected. And although the cover was fun, I didn't like that the only way to keep it closed was by using a pen through the loops. I wasn't going to risk losing a fountain pen that way. Also, I could barely see the dates and the times, they were so small. I decided to sell the Techo and stick with my Midori Traveler's Journal.

But, my fascination with the Hobonichi continued. When I found out that you could order July through December planners for around $16.00 (USD), I decided to give the Hobonichi a second try. But this time I opted for the Hobonichi Cousin in the A5 size. The six-month Hobonichi is only in Japanese, but I figured I could live with that and give Google Translate a try (spoiler alert: Google translate does a horrible job with Japanese).

I accidentally ordered a Techo A6 instead of the Cousin and had to place a second order. But this gave me the opportunity to compare the Techo to the Cousin. You can see how much larger the Cousin is in comparison.

The Hobonichi planner is cardboard-bound and is sewn to lie flat when opened. The Hobonichi can be used as is or you can purchase a cover designed for it. The Hobonichi brand covers come in a variety of designs and include several inside pockets and attached bookmarks. To protect the exterior, you can order a plastic cover that fits over the planner cover.

The Hobonichi 2016 planner and covers will be available beginning September 1, 2015. The 2016 Techo planner comes in English, and if you order through the Hobonichi 1101 store the whole process is in English.

Both the Techo and the Cousin follow a similar format. The first two pages contain yearly calendars.

Monthly calendars in vertical format appear next. The nice thing about these vertical calendars is you can see several months at once.

Next are monthly calendars. These monthly calendars start the week with Monday, which always confuses me because I'm accustomed to American monthly calendars which typically start the week with Sunday. I have to be careful that I'm on the correct day of the week when I write things in.

Next is a page for each day. In the upper left corner is the month number and the date. The days of the week are printed in Japanese in the six-month version, so I simply write the day in English in the space provided. On the top right are five check boxes next to which you can list to dos. Down the left-hand side is the time in three-hour increments using the 24-hour system.

On the bottom left is a quote in Japanese (in the twelve-month English Hobonichis the quotes are in English) and on the right is the calendar for the month with the current date circled.

The month date is also on the right margin in a specific color so that you can quickly flip to the correct month. You can see the colors on the edge of the planner.

The Hobonichi Cousin, for the most part, makes good use of its larger size. It includes three years instead of two on its first two pages.

The vertical month pages show six months instead of four. I like this because I'm a professor, and it allows me to see an entire semester all at once.

Cousin Vertical Month.jpg

However, instead of making the vertical month lines larger, the Cousin simply has extra space at the bottom. You can see that they basically reprinted the exact same size lines from the Techo rather than redesigning the page to use the extra space.

The month pages are much larger than the Techo, and the Cousin does a good job of taking advantage of this extra space.

The page-per-day format is another example of the Cousin being copied from the Techo. Why they didn't spread the timeline out so it uses all the space of the page, I don't know.

What I do is write the time in 1 hour increments over the numbers in the Cousin and that gives me almost twelve hours to plan my day.

The to-do section is the same size as the Techo. The only difference between the Techo and the Cousin on the day page is that the Cousin has more grid space for writing or drawing. I think they should have redesigned the entire page to take advantage of the larger size of the Cousin.

At the back of each Hobonichi are some pages with blank grid paper, followed by various pages you can use to plan your time table, list anniversaries or birthdays, list your favorite books or movies, keep ideas for gifts, list a few important addresses, and keep your own personal information.

In addition there are several pages in Japanese containing instructions and various other information I can't read.

The Tomoe River paper used in the Hobonichi is wonderful. It is smooth, thin, and great with fountain pens. None of my fountain pens bleed through the paper, but show through is typical because of how thin Tomoe River paper is. If this is something that drives you crazy, you won't like the Hobonichi. It doesn't bother me at all. I love the feel and look of a well-used notebook.

Although the Techo is more popular because it is small enough to fit in one's purse or notebook, I much prefer the Cousin. Its larger size suits how I do planning, and even though I've had to make a few adjustments (like writing my own hours in the Japanese version), I love the paper and the design. I like that I can see the entire semester at a glance, each month at a glance, and then focus on each day. I'm committed to using the Cousin this summer and fall. I think it just might replace my Traveler's notebook.

People who are artistic use their Hobonichis like a sketch-diary where they detail each day with various drawings and watercolors. I tried to do this, but I can't draw well enough to make this practical.

Instead, I decided to practice my handwriting, so I write down a special quote each day.

Instead of buying a Hobonichi brand cover, I decided to get my Cousin cover from Esplanade London's Etsy Store. They use Harris Tweed for their covers. You can choose from a variety of patterns, and they offer covers for both the Techo and Cousin Hobonichis. I love my cover. It has pockets for my fountain pens and smaller notebooks and it looks so very British.

Planners and journals are extremely personal choices. Some people swear by their Midori Traveler's Journal whereas others love Filofax. Some prefer a simple spiral notebook or a cheap calendar from Staples. Many people love their Hobonichis. And some of us can't decide, so we collect multiple planners.

If you want to try out a Hobonichi, I'd suggest purchasing just the planner first. Don't go crazy, like I did, and get a Hobonichi cover and a bunch of accessories. Then you won't waste a bunch of money if you don't like the planner. A word of warning: the really cool Hobonichi covers sell out quickly, so if you decide you want one of those, you'll probably have to order one as soon as they become available in September.

Pros

  • Simple design with different views–yearly, monthly-vertical, monthly, and one page per day
  • Fountain pen friendly Tomoe River Paper
  • The Hobonichi yearly planner is not too expensive at around $22 USD (though covers and accessories can add to the cost)
  • Lightweight
  • Binding allows the planner to lie flat
  • Graph paper format allows for easy to do lists, writing, drawing, graphing

Cons

  • Tomoe River paper is thin and writing/drawing does show through
  • When it comes to keeping a calendar, people have different organizational styles and the Hobonichi format might not fit yours
  • No option for separate books for monthly, yearly, and daily calendars, as with the Traveler's Notebook. In other words, you can't rearrange the Hobonichi like you can some other planners.
  • The Cousin A5 size does not come in an English version (I am really bummed about this)
Posted on July 31, 2015 and filed under Hobonichi, Notebook Reviews.

Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Brush Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.)

Here is the crux of my problem with brush pens - they are the imperfect imitation of an attainable thing. They are a cover band. They are the movie version of a beloved book. They are turkey bacon. They are not brushes, they are barely brush-like.

The problem with every felt tip brush pen I have ever used is the lack of "snap" or "spring." Sure, a real brush can be a bit unforgiving at times, but it's worth it for that je ne sais quoi when the ink meets the page and line thickens right where you want it too and as the brush lifts and the tip flicks back to its original shape leaving a line tapered to perfection like a wisp of smoke. Sweet ink bliss.

So, now you know how I feel about this sort of thing. This is a review of the Pilot Futayaku Double Sided Brush Pen. It's tips are felt. Hold on to your butts.

When I picked this thing up I didn’t want to compare it to a brush. I really didn’t. Promise. I figured that I would end up aggravated, so I wanted to take my own advice and treat it as something else. A tool, which it is. A tool that knows it's failures and has a built in compensation. In that way it ceases trying to be an imitation and embraces the functionality it does have.

This pen has, you guessed it, two tips. One large, one small. The small side's largest line width is precisely the thinnest of the wide side. They meet in the middle. The difference between to the two tips is so perfectly divided that it leads to an amount of flexibility I’ve not found in another felt tip brush pen. I know that it sounds lazy, but flipping the pen to use the other side is so much better than stopping to dig for another pen.

It has double caps; one for each side and the large end cap has a clip. You can switch cap sides, the large cap fits the small side and vice versa. The caps also nest within one another, so you can always fit the one on top of the other side you aren't using, stacking two caps on one end. This seems like a no-brainer, but so many dual pens do it wrong or poorly. The pen isn't unwieldy long either. It is lightweight, but not so much that it’s thrown off when one side has both caps.

Ink delivery is smooth and consistent. About a 4 second dry time and you are safe to touch the paper. This helps when re-positioning your hand over previously laid lines to use the other side of the pen, which is great because that is exactly how I was using this pen. The dual nature of the pen works wonders with my workflow and felt like it was the antidote to my problems with other brush pens.

I stopped expecting to get the variance of line width that a real brush would give me and leaned into the predictability of the line widths and their limitations. The damn pen has two tips, make sure you use both. The lines are easier to control and leave a smoother stroke, where sometimes a brush will echo the minor shakes of my hand. In that respect, it actually trumps a brush in performance. This pen could be a more forgiving alternative, not replacement, to a brush. Now, it didn't disappear in my hand like I was suddenly communicating directly to the paper as ink incarnate, like I sometimes feel with brushes (we've all been there, am I right?). But it was like using a well-made tool whose makers understood the limitation of what the tool was and perfected it because of that.

The Futayaku is available at JetPens and is well worth dropping one on your cart to have a new pocket friend ready to ink up a page.

(Disclaimer: This product was provided for me free of cost but I am not otherwise being compensated for this review. The opinions contained are my own.)

Posted on July 30, 2015 and filed under Brush Pen, Pen Reviews, Pilot.

Calepino Graph Paper Memo Book Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

The market of 3.5 x 5.5 memo books is definitely not slim. Field Notes is likely leading the pack, followed by other worthy contenders such as Doane, Word, and many, many others. But Brad sent me one that I'd only seen reviewed several times on other fantastic sites — the Calepino.

The Calepino is a French-made memo book that uses 100% recycled materials. In a word, this notebook is killer. From the understated kraft outside to the resilient, smooth paper on the inside, this book makes me wonder if I should ever buy any more Field Notes (but who am I kidding — I have a problem).

The Calepino notebooks are right up the alley of every other 3.5 x 5.5 memo book out there. A 3-packer will cost around $10 and comes in a nice variety of paper markings, from lined, blank, dot grid, and graph. If you're a big dot grid fan, this is a memo book made especially for you. The only problem I've found so far is that these books can be somewhat difficult to find. CW Pencils and Cult Pens have the full arrangement, and I suggest you check them out.

The look and feel

These notebooks have a thicker, stiffer cardstock than most of the competitors. It has a nice natural look to it and features soft, understated branding that fits the aesthetic perfectly. The staples are heavy duty and hold the book together firmly. I have no doubts that this book will hold up well in your back pocket for several weeks.

The graph lines are printed in a subtle green ink that carries over the nice green ink from the cover art. Inside the covers are the expected blank fields for name, address, etc. The back cover has some information about the notebooks, but it's written in French. C'est la vie.

The paper

To get right to it, this paper is awesome. It's possibly some of the best paper I've seen in a memo book of this size. It handles pens and inks of all types with ease. Let's be honest, the most troubling pens can be wet fountain pens, and this notebook handles those like a champ with no feathering and minimal bleeding and show through. Incredible.

Like a lot of graph paper, some inks change color or sheen when over the graph lines, but it's not very noticeable with this paper and ink. In some papers, the graph lines seem to eat the ink, making it look like the pen is skipping very neatly every 1 cm. Not the case with the Calepino.

After investigating for a minute, I discovered that the Calepino notebooks use 90gsm weight paper. That, folks, is why this paper is so good — I'm just not used to seeing it this format.

Conclusion

If you like pocket memo books and fountain pens, check out Calepino. These are exceptionally well-made products, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Like I mentioned, these aren't incredibly easy to find in the US, but CW Pencils and Cult Pens have them up for sale for around $10 a pack.

Posted on July 29, 2015 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Calepino.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode #165 - What Kind of Show Are You Running Here?

I was under the gun this week as I completely forgot to plan out Episode #165! Myke and the community delivered though, and we ended up with an excellent episode if I do say so myself. We touched on my vacation bag dump, the latest with Nock and Karas Pen Co., and some ink thoughts by yours truly.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

Fracture: Photos printed in vivid color directly on glass. Use code 'PENADDICT' to get 15% off.

Squarespace: Build it Beautiful. Use code INK for 10% off.

Posted on July 28, 2015 and filed under Podcast.