Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 Hobonichi Planner (English version) review!

Finally, here is my Hobonichi review! Sorry for the delay.

So. The Hobonichi planner. You've probably seen these online a lot in recent months. The Japanese Hobonichi Techo planner has been extremely popular in Japan for more than a decade. They made an English version for 2013 which proved popular, but non-Japanese speaking folks had a hard time ordering from the Japanese website. That was remedied by Lindsay, their brilliant and wonderful translator. Now the English website is clear and easy to use!

I ordered my Hobonichi English planner and cover on the website linked above. Big heads-up to UK folks: be prepared to pay more than 20 pounds in import fees and VAT. For some reason I didn't have to pay (luck I guess?), but friends of mine who have ordered more than the 15 GBP value threshold have had to pay the fees. You can see more info on this website.

You can convert the Japanese yen to your currency on or similar conversion websites to see approximately what you'll be paying, but keep in mind the actual conversion rate is determined by your credit card company when you order.

To be honest, I wasn't going to order a Hobonichi planner. The planner + cover + shipping for my order cost the equivalent of more than $60 USD/ 38 GBP, which is more than I usually spend on a planner that is purely experimental for me. But the more I looked at websites online, the more I wanted one. Hobonichi fans are very enthusiastic and have a sort of combination of the creative uses that you see on Moleskine websites and the personalization of different covers that Filofax fans have. In the end, curiosity won and I caved and ordered one.

There are lots of excellent reviews online already of the 2014 Hobonichi planner, and I'm not going to try to duplicate those. In particular check out Well Appointed Desk's review for excellent photos, and information on how the paper performs with fountain pen inks. (I don't own any fountain pens so I can't help you there.)

Mainly I want to answer questions I've seen online, especially about the size. US folks in particular are not usually familiar with this size, which is A6. That's just under 6 inches tall and about 4 1/4 inches wide. Lots of people have been surprised at how small the planner is, so I will show you some comparison photos.

Here is the Hobonichi planner as it comes, without an optional cover on. The black textured cover can certainly be used without another cover on it.

Below you can see the Hobonichi planner between a large Moleskine (green) and a pocket Moleskine (purple). As you can see, it's about the same height and slightly wider than the pocket Moleskine.

Below you can see the Hobonichi planner next to a US standard letter size piece of paper (8 1/2 by 11 inches).
The Hobonichi's A6 size is very portable, and easy to carry with you everywhere.

Below is the cover I chose, the I'll listen to you anytime, says the Donkey cover:

I chose this cover because at the time I ordered it was the only cheaper cover left, at 1900 Yen (approximately $19 USD).
I really like this cover, it's colorful and fun. The design is by a children's author.

The interior has an excellent pocket layout, and two placemarkers to mark your current month and day.

So let me show you some interior photos. First of all I want to apologize for the quality of the photos, it's hard to get good light this time of year!

The diary is one page per day, with a 4 mm grid pattern. 

Some of my photos don't accurately represent the color of the paper. Here is a comparison of the Hobonichi paper with Moleskine's ivory paper (left) and Clairefontaine bright white (at right). As you can see it's just off white. Also you can see the 4 mm grid compared to the 6 mm ruling of the Moleskine. (Click on any of the photos for a larger view.)

I'll take you for a walk through the book to show you the features. The first two pages are reference calendars:

Next are months as columns:

Then monthly calendars with each month on a two-page spread:

The monthly calendars have space at the side for lists and reminders, and space below the month which is a convenient place to write recurring events.

Next comes the day per page diary section. I didn't show December 2013, which has two days per page so you can get started early. Each page has the phase of the moon at the top. Sundays are in red, and there is a quote at the bottom of each two-page spread.

Something I want to point out about the moon phases: they are in Japanese time. Below is a good example (click the photo for a larger view): the New Moon was on Friday the 31st of January in Japan, but the Moleskine diary behind shows the new moon at 21:39 GMT which falls on Thursday. Just something to be aware of if the moon phases matter to you, especially for US folks because the moon phases will be the day before in the US.

At the side of the daily pages are shaded areas indicating the month, so you can find the month you are looking for easily. There is also a month calendar with the days in view circled.

After the daily pages there are several pages with a red 4 mm dot grid for notes.

At the back of the book are several pages of content with a guide to sushi and sake, using chopsticks, and tea around the world:

Here is another view of the front and back of my cover:

The back of the cover has a full-length outside pocket.

I also bought the Tartan cover from Tracy, it has a nice rough-fabric feel to it:

There are lots of places to look online for more info on the Hobonichi planner and different ways people use theirs. Their Facebook page has lots of good photos of use, as do the Tumblr page and Flickr. Lindsay has an unofficial guide to the Hobonichi, and you can see more info about the making of the planner in this interview with its creator.

The Hobonichi planner ordering website sells out of covers quickly, so if you like a particular cover be sure to buy it quick!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the 2014 Hobonichi planner, and I'll be happy to answer!

Be sure to check out my post Monday: my review of the A5 size Hobonichi Cousin planner which has monthly, weekly AND daily pages!!!


  1. I could not find the Cousin planner on the website. The planner seems really cool and also kinda small.

    1. The Cousin ordering page is in Japanese only. In my review of it Monday I will have links and ordering instructions.

  2. Does this planner lay flat easily? You have more experience with daily planners; how would this compare to the ABP2? Page size looks similar but this one has monthly calendars, which would help with not getting lost in the days if used for planning. And could you see yourself ever using this for your daily log?

    1. Hi mstraat, to answer your questions:

      Yes it lays completely flat, which is really nice.

      This is smaller than the ABP2, but yes the month pages are an advantage.

      This is too small for me as my daily log, I use one or two pages each day in my large Moleskine notebook. I was hoping since the 4 mm grid is so tiny I could fit an equivalent amount of writing each day but no go.

  3. Hi Laurie! I've been using my Hobonichi Planner since I got it for Christmas last year. I really like the smooth paper and minimalistic grid layout. I started using it as a gratitude journal, but unfortunately, I found the pages too small and the small grid hard to write in. So I ordered another diary from Japan, a Marks EDiT day-per-page diary in B6 size, which is bigger than A6 but smaller than A5. But the funny thing is, even though the B6 page is larger, the actual writing space is not much larger than the Hobonichi pages. So even though the Hobonichi is small, it is an efficient design in terms of writing space. Just one of those weird planner phenomena I suppose. Zoe

  4. Zoe you make a good point. I compared the Hobo to other day per page diaries I have of similar size, and in theory I should be able to write more in the Hobo pages because it has more lines per page. But when I tried to write on every line, I had to cram my handwriting much smaller than I normally write, which made it hard to read, and with every line filled it was pretty much illegible. So then I wrote on every other line, which still required me to write smaller than I normally do but was more legible. But that defeated the purpose of the many small lines and I was only able to fit as much onto the page as I would have with wider lines. Does that make sense? Anyway, it would work well for someone who has tiny, tidy handwriting, but for those of us with big sloppy writing it's not a space-saver.

  5. I'm looking forward to your review of the Cousin. I nixed the regular one due to the 4mm line spacing. Does the Cousin use the same line spacing, or wider?

    Any writing I do that small cramps my hand and is usually illegible. Since I had good penmanship drilled into me at an early age, it drives me crazy. 5mm is as small as I can go (and I can tolerate 5mm grid better than lined). But 6mm is just perfection.

  6. Bree, the Cousin does have the same 4 mm spacing. But since the page is so much bigger you could afford to use only every other line.

    And I agree, 6 mm is the ideal spacing for me! It's a great combination of enough space for my handwriting and maximum use of the page.

  7. Oh man, I am a dork. I got a tinge of excitement when I saw that you got the same donkey cover! I wasn't too sure about it at first, but it's really grown on me. It's a "pretty ass" cover!
    The 4mm grid is the perfect size for my printing.

  8. I am so glad that you finally review the Hobonichi ( planner! I have been using it for 4, 5 years now (long before the English version came out). I really enjoy the variety of covers offered as well as the clean design of the one-day-per-page format. I used to this tiny one for keeping track of my diet and exercise. I used to use the cousin version for work. Now I use the tiny one as my Troat card journal (I am learning Troat - not to do reading on others per se, just as daily meditation/inspiration). I use the Moleskine professional for work. For other personal stuff, I use Mark Ed!t one-day-per-page ( I am hoping that you will be able do a review on Mark's planner one day.

  9. Thanks for the size comparison photos - even though I grew up with metric sizing (and should know what size A6 is - quarter the size of A4) I hadn't realized just how small it was. Nope, my handwriting isn't going to fit that size.