Yo No Bi – Finally Finding Zen in My Almost-Every-Day #Hobonichi

*Fair Warning: this is a long post. So get comfortable… πŸ™‚ Feel free to skip to the end to read my personal thoughts. Please feel free to let me know – in the comments – how you “plan your day” if you do and what your favourite planner/planning system is. Thank you for reading.*

This year I have been focused on productivity and productivity habits/methods/systems/tools. One of the reasons I have been so focused on productivity is because I have been fighting a personal battle of being well enough to be productive. I have also had to learn to be kinder to myself. I am my own worst critic at the best of times but in the times when my own body is the enemy to my productivity, I am usually even worse at criticising myself. 

As I have shared on here, a few months ago, I am a Migraineur and I live with Chronic Migraine on a daily basis. The last year has been particular difficult and trying as my Chronic Migraines went from bad to severe, from 10 a month to about 20 – 25 a month now. I have had to accept that on the bad days I can’t get writing done and beating myself up mentally about this does not get me anywhere and just ends up creating more stress for me. And one thing Chronic Migraine does not like is Stress. But I am determined that this Migraine will not steal more of my life and creativity than it already does. So I have been researching and trialling many different productivity methods/tools in order to turn my chaotic into calm.

The concept of “Yo no Bi” (Japanese)
~ transl. Beauty Through Use ~


I recently shared a post about returning to the world of planning Filofax-style in my new Kikki K. I also shared the fantastic Day Designer undated template I found for planning out my day. But after a few months of using this system, I was feeling underwhelmed and under-motivated. (*I meant to use “under-motivated specifically instead of unmotivated. The motivation was there but the system underwhelmed me.*) 

There was nothing glaringly wrong with the system but I knew something was missing. There was too much “plan” and not enough “usability”. I ended up feeling more frustrated and restricted than calmer and more organised. My planner system was simply not the right plan for me personally.

As much as I love my digital tools, I knew that ultimately I love unplugging and using paper and pen. For the last year I have also been getting back into the world of fountain pens and beautiful paper. (A whole other rabbit hole to fall down into.) I made a pros and cons list about what I wanted vs what I needed in the “perfect planner”.  This was my list:

My “Perfect Planner” Wish List

  • Must be pen and paper.
  • Preferably fountain pen friendly.
  • Minimum A5 in size and fairly portable.
  • Enough sections to be able to fit in everything from deadline dates, a chronodex, appointments, tasks to do and a “clean and simple” space for writing – working through story ideas, character development, and a brain dump.
  • A system with enough structure to make my perfectionist-me happy and enough adaptability to make my creative-me happy.
  • A system contained within itself, something that can be taken with me on the go and be usable anywhere and everywhere whether at my desk, at a cafe, on a plane/bus/train or while travelling.
  • Simplicity not complication.
  • Beautiful function. Functional beauty.
  • Something both aesetically beautiful in design but fully functional and practical in usability.

Once I knew what I truly wanted and needed, I knew what to go looking for. As a stationery addict I could spend a lot of money on many products that would match all my needs and wants. But the key to me in this instance is that I don’t need more stationery for the sake of feeding my love for stationery. I needed a productivity system that would allow me to feel more organised. 


I have finally found the system that works for me. I have finally found the Zen in my “Almost-Every-Day”…

<!–more But wait, let me tell you more!–>

Hobonichi Techo
~ transl. Almost-Every-Day Handbook ~

The Hobonichi Method

JT Ellison, herself a thriller writer, posted about the “New Planner Love” and fueled by her obvious enthusiasm and the beautiful photographs she included in her post, I knew I wanted needed to find out more about this “perfect planner”. Searching for written reviews, articles and blog posts on Hobonichi was not initially as enlightening as I hoped it would be. I found a few blog posts and articles but, compared to other planner systems, it still seemed to be the “best-kept-secret” on the blogosphere. So I went to YouTube and started searching there and that is where I found much more information. As I watched video after video, I started getting more and more excited. *I have linked all my favourite videos that focus on using the Hobonichi as a planner right at the end of this post.* Everything that I was hearing and seeing and reading about the Hobonichi Method zinged with me.


The final push that I needed – by this point a tiny push with a pinkie finger would have had me down the Hobonichi rabbit hole – was reading an interview Here with the designer/creator, Shigesato Itoi – editor-in-chief of Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun , famous video game designer, copywriter, online personality, and author – of the Hobonichi here. Everything that he spoke about in the interview resonated with me. I loved the obvious passion that had come about with the design of the Hobonichi. Passion + Creativity sells me every time.

So I knew I wanted needed must have the Hobonichi. I also knew I wanted the A5. Hobonichi offers 5 versions/sizes:

Hobonichi Versions

  • Hobonichi Cousin – Spring (A5 – April – March)

*To order the Cousin, follow these instructions to use the Japanese site. Once you have added the Hobonichi Cousin to your online shopping cart, you can continue with English for the rest of your order.*

  • Hobonichi Weeks (Japanese+English – Similar size to a Traveller Notebook size)
  • Hobonichi Avec – available in both A6 + A5 (6 month Planner)

    All Hobonichi Techo versions + Covers/Accessories can be bought HERE.

But…what about my beautiful, still new, Kikki K? I could have sold it but I really loved the actual leather binder, even if I was underwhelmed by the rings system. Again YouTube came to the rescue with this Video. I learnt I could remove the rings from my Kikki K and convert it into a cover for whatever planner/notebooks I wanted to add in. 

So without further ado….

My Kikki-Hobo 

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How I am going to use my Kikki-Hobo

  • Yearly Calendar Index

My Index: Anything that is important from the rest of my Hobonichi will be entered here.
Birthday/Anniversaries/Important Dates
Health Tracker – Migraines
                           – Exercise

  • Monthly Calendar

Writing Planner – Deadline Dates
Writing Tracker – Chronodex-style tracking 
              – Actual hours spent working vs Planned hours
              – Actual Progress vs Planned Progress 

  • Weekly Calendar

Time-dependant Tasks + Errands
Extra time-dependant tasks ie Podcast Recording 

  • Daily Calendar

Writing Log/Journal:~
              Working through plot/character development.
              Free Writing / Morning Pages.
              Unknotting plot-holes.
              Tracking the actual progress of writing.
24hr Timed section:~ This will be filled in through the day/end of the day as a tracking system. What hours were spent doing what.

I am sure this system will evolve as and how I use my Kikki-Hobo.
I will continue to update you throughout the year how I am using the Hobonichi Cousin. 

Features of The Hobonichi Cousin Spring [A5 April 2015 – March 2015]

  • 180degree lay flat Bound book, lies perfectly flat no matter whether you have it open to front/centre/back.
  • Gridded Tomoe River Paper – Exceptionally lightweight, fountain pen + watercolour friendly paper. No bleed through, no feathering of ink. This paper is soft, smooth and creamy to the touch and a dream to write on.
  • Super-lightweight paper means that this planner is still compact at over 400 pages, that looks and feels like 100 pages.
  • Yearly Calendar Index
  1. 3 Year Calendar
  2. Full Year Vertical Index: 6month on 2 page spread – with a top 3 To Do tasks list at the top of each page / free note taking space at the bottom of each page
  • Monthly Calendar 
  1. To do Task Checkboxes x5 (Pages are gridded, so more checkboxes can easily be a drawn in.)
  2. Vertical + Horizontal note taking area
  3. Moon Phases + Rokuyo (Japanese Traditional Calendar) – The monthly calendar days are labeled with rokuyo, a cycle of six days said to predict good or bad fortune that day. The labels are commonly found on Japanese calendars and used to plan weddings and funerals.
  4. Month on Two Page spread
  • Weekly Calendar (Exclusively available in the Hobonichi Cousin)
  1. Week Numbers – Jan 1-7 = Week 1/52 
  2. To Do Task Checkboxes  x3 (Pages are gridded, so more checkboxes can easily be a drawn in.)
  3. Mini monthly reference calendar: Monday-start monthly calendar. The week displayed on the current two-page spread is outlined in red.
  4. 24hr Timetable: A 24 hour timetable that begins at 6 am. Each hour consists of two lines on the grid, making it easy to write in intervals of 30 minutes.
  • Daily Calendar 
  1. Day Per Page, including weekend days.
  2. 24hr TimeTable: 4am ~ 4am Work – a full 24-hour timetable to accommodate all schedules. Each hour is labeled with a dot, and every 30-minute mark is labeled with a line.
  3. The “Secret Line”: a vertical line that runs parallel along the right of the timetable. This separates the schedule on the left from the open memo pad on the right. This is printed lightly enough so that you can ignore it when using the page as a whole.
  4. To do Task Checkboxes x5 (Pages are gridded, so more checkboxes can easily be a drawn in.)
  5. Day of the Year: Jan 1st = Day 1
  6. Moon Phases
  7. Old Japanese lunar-solar calendar: The date of the old Japanese lunisolar calendar is also included under the day’s date. This calendar was used in Japan until 1873 when Japan adopted the universal Gregorian calendar. Nowadays, certain days from this calendar are still celebrated across Japan, such as Hina-Matsuri (Doll Festival) on March 3 and Tanabata (Star Festival) on July 7.
  8. Japanese Holidays
  9. 12-colour Monthly Tabs: Similar to a dictionary, each month is labeled with a different colored tab on the edge of the page for easy reference, even when the book is closed. It is easy to flip ahead to write future plans, or flip back to read old pages. The tabs of the 2015 edition feature lighter colors to make it easier to read anything written over them.
  10. Mini Monthly Calendar: The daily pages also include a mini monthly calendar at the bottom of every two-page spread, and the dates of the pages being used are outlined.
  11. 3.7mm Graphed / Grids on Tomoe River Paper
  12. Daily quotes (in Japanese in the Cousin, in English in the A6 English planner)
  • Extra info Pages (Back of Hobonichi Cousin)


Coutesy of Main Hobonichi Website


    My Thoughts


  This is the mantra I have chosen as my life-mantra for my home. I can easily get caught up in “things” that I end up not using because they are too beautiful and I don’t want to use them up. (Case in point: drawers full of beautiful but unused notebooks/paper.) But what is the point in having beautiful things that are not being used. This year I am attempting to use everything I find beautiful. If I am not using it because it is unusable or not beautiful, out it goes; whether I rehome things to someone else or just throw it away, depending on the item. [This is by no means a short term process. It is a personal  life-time challenge and commitment to simplify and declutter.]

Beauty Through Use (Yo no Bi)

This Kikki-Hobo is my way to de-clutter, simplify, beautify and use. The Kikki K ringed system was not working for me personally but by “frankensteining” it, by removing the rings, I have found the perfect use for it as the home for my Hobonichi Techo Cousin. I bought the Kikki K because I thought it was beautiful but after a short while found it unusable. But now, de-ringed, it is still beautiful and now it is useful as my Hobonichi cover.


There is something to be said for touch. The Hobonichi Cousin is both pleasing to the eye, in its Japanese simplicity, and pleasing to the touch. The Tomoe River Paper – how I ever lived without this paper I don’t know – is incredible. It is soft, smooth and creamy to the physical touch. Writing on it: it is smooth and the nib (both ball point / roller ball / fountain pen) glides over it like the hull of a beautiful yacht on calm seas. This paper is not afraid of ink. There is no bleed through and no feathering. There is some faint show-through (you can see the writing on the reverse side) but this does not bother me. Personally, I actually like show-through because then the page looks lived in. The paper also takes watercolours beautifully. The pen I use is a Waterman Carene Fountain Pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Ink in Yama Budo (a gorgeous Crimson-purple with green-golden sheen).  Tomoe River Paper is the perfect paper to show up the sheen (colours, different to the actual ink colour, in certain fountain pen inks – Pilot Iroshizuku Inks are famous for their exquisite sheen properties – that “shine” through when you write with them).

Life planned the Hobonichi-way

       Yo no Bi – Beauty through Use. My new favourite concept. 

The Hobonichi planners excel in this concept. The tiny grids on the graphed Tomoe River Paper are beautiful and useful. The grids are very faint so they don’t make the page feel cluttered. There is something very pleasing to me about the simple order of squares. The gridded squares in the Hobonichi are small, smaller than Western graphed paper, but because the grids are so faint, they are not a hindrance if you like a bold scrawl in your planners. My writing is tiny and very ordered, so these tiny grids fit me perfectly. My words fit. On lined pages my words seem lost. With the Hobonichi I have found just the right size grid for my personal hand writing style.

A calendar for everything, and everything in the calendar 

I love the sections in the Hobonichi Cousin. I have never before owned a planner with a Yearly, Monthy, Weekly, Daily and Hourly (not to mention 24hr) schedule/calendar. I also love that on the Daily pages (One Whole Day Per Page) the “time” schedule is unobtrusive and discreet. Usually in most planner systems, it is all about the timed schedule. Though that works for a purely business view with many appointments, it just does not gel with my more creative planning.

Spring / April Start

I love the Spring (April Start) version of the Hobonichi (Available in both the Original Japanese Techo A6 and the Cousin A5). Although in my corner of the world it is Autumn, it is also the time of year that I personally see as a “New Year” because my birthday happens to fall at the end of March. I also like an “April – Start” because I find the first three months of every year are more fluid in regards to planning but by April I have a good idea about where my year is going to go and I can plan accordingly. I also tend to start any new writing projects in my Autumn months (April/May). Autumn – Winter is my busiest and most productive months Writing-wise. For me it is the perfect time to “hibernate” in my writing cave, shut out the social world, and focus on my stories and my characters. So an April-Start planning system is perfect. 


The Hobonichi also has a Monday-start week. I was thrilled to find out about this. Every other planning system I have ever had has a Sunday start. Personally this has always driven me batty. So I am in my happy-place with a Monday-start in my Hobonichi Cousin.

A little Japanese Zen

The Cousin (A5) that I have is mostly in Japanese. This however does not make it unusable. There is more than enough English (Dates / Days / Months / Years) to make it fully functional if you don’t understand/can’t read Japanese Kanji/Kana. I personally think that the Japanese Kanji/Kana truly makes this planner so beautiful. The linguist in me is even inspired to add “learning to speak Japanese / learning to read/write Japanese Kanji/Kana” to my foreign languages. (I am already fluent in English, German, Zulu and Afrikaans. I can get by in Greek, both speaking/reading/writing. I can also get by with a smattering of Italian. I am currently learning French and Spanish.) So for me the “Japanese” only adds to the aesthetic functionality of the Hobonichi. 


The Hobonichi matches my need for beauty, function and usability. It is truly true to the Ancient Japanese concept of “Yo no Bi”: Beauty through Use. I have truly found my elusive Planning Zen (or planner peace as the huge online planner community likes to term it). I know that this is the planning system that will continue alongside me for a very long time. I have finally found the planning system that will declutter my days and give me an ordered calm. I have found Zen in my “Almost-Every-Day”. I have found my Zen in my Hobonichi.

*…* ~ Edited/added in ~

There is no such thing as the Perfect Planner. If there were, there would not be so many options out there both digital and analogue. But there is such a thing as finding the “perfect planning system for yourself”. 


Who runs your day?

This might incorporate digital, analogue or a combination of digital and analogue tools. I have trialled many planning systems/tools and I am fortunate enough that for now I have found “My Perfect Planning System” in the Hobonichi Techo Cousin. 

What about you?

Tell me ~
Are you a planner? Have you found your perfect planning system? What is your current planner/planning system?
Tell me about it…

Related articles on Hobonichi

*Updated* Related YouTube videos on Hobonichi *as a planner*


Because…Tina Fey.

    7 thoughts on “Yo No Bi – Finally Finding Zen in My Almost-Every-Day #Hobonichi

    1. Hello. Thank you for sharing this. I chance upon your blog while searching more information about Cousin. I just bought one and excited for April. I am waiting for a cover also I bought from the Hobonichi store. I am currently using Hobonichi Weeks and I feel that I need more space to write and organize my chaos. Thank you for sharing a lot of insights and information. I am truly inspired and I look forward to start using Cousin Spring more because of your blog. πŸ™‚ Merci beaucoup. Gracias. Danke. πŸ™‚ Arigato gozaimasu!!! πŸ™‚

    2. Your website is beautiful. Your writing is breathtaking. Your perfectionist is precious- nurture her, feed her, celebrate her with these gorgeous instruments of creativity.

      Perhaps it has come from moving so much, perhaps it is the part of me that seeks to order my surroundings when so much in life is beyond my control and comprehension, but I crave order and simplicity. I am a planner (and an notebook obsessive), but you have inspired me to be more dedicated and deliberate.

      Also, you are going to get me into so much trouble. I am going to spend some time exploring the Hobonichi system. Beauty Through Use is simply beautiful.

      I wish you healing and peace. I’m thrilled to see you again. xoxo Julie

      1. Julie πŸ™‚

        Thank you for such a beautiful comment!
        Yes…I have moved a lot in my life too…which is why I totally believe in simplicity and organisation.
        (Apologies in advance for sending you down the Hobonichi rabbit hole! πŸ˜‰ )
        I do love, love stationery…always have!
        But I need to get over my “it’s too beautiful to use” hiccup…Yo no Bi is just my perfect new mantra. We always think we have all this limitless time allotted to us but the only true time we have is now in the present. So what is the point of saving beautiful things to be used later…
        No! Yo no Bi!! Beauty THROUGH Use. Why can’t everyday be special enough to use beautiful things?
        This mantra and journaling again has me searching for the beautiful in everyday.

        (Let me know if you do get a Hobonichi!)

        Hugs xx

    3. Paper that works with a fountain pen is a must! I use a PaperBlanks week-at-a-time for keeping track of writing progress. Delicious.
      On the subject of perfectionism, I’d say take your perfectionist self out the back and give it the death of a thousand paper-cuts (or, alternatively, stab it to death with a fountain pen) – perfectionist self is never happy and will make sure you aren’t either.

      1. Hi Deborah,

        Yes paper that is fountain pen friendly has definitely become a “must” in my life. I am amazed with how fussy I have become since getting back into fountain pens. Who knew all the different papers out there! It is a brand new eyes-opened world to me. But I am loving it. Of course, I never dreamed I would find a Tomoe River Paper Planner….so the Hobonichi has revolutionised my planning and made me very happy πŸ™‚ because I get to use my beloved fountain pen.
        What is your favourite paper+pen+ink combination?

        I do love PaperBlanks too. I have a beautiful PaperBlanks Journal and I do love it.

        Re Perfectionism: I hear where you’re coming from. I have learnt to leash my perfectionism in the drafting + creative stage of writing … But ….
        I am also very thankful for my strong perfectionist instinct (gift from my maternal Germanic bloodlines). My perfectionism drives me to push myself and to exceed even my own expectations.
        I am not a “messy creative”. I get the heebie-jeebies when I see clutter/mess/disorder/untidiness. I am very much a “clean and uncluttered + ordered desk” gal.
        The way I view it is that I have to work with my own instincts and who I am. My perfectionism is very much a part of who I am.

        Thanks so much for not only taking the time to read this post but to comment. I do appreciate it. πŸ™‚

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