The Diary Edition

On keeping track, Japan, and understanding life in context

Nick Parish (NP) has been a long-standing friend of WITI since his days as a junior reporter on the NY Post’s sports desk. He’s since worked in editorial, strategy, product design and currently lives in Portland. He’s a fly fishing mentor to Noah and recently wrote about fermentation. This originally ran last August, but we love it. - Colin (CJN) 

Nick here. I’ve kept a journal on and off since the summer of 1990 when I was 10. Thirty years later, it’s become a lifesaver. 

It’s full of anxieties I won’t go into, as you’re probably quite familiar with your own and likely bearing greater. I’ve paddled in clear waters all my days, though sometimes they were cold, and the current strong. 

But I've been able to manage heightened anxieties and focus on what I can control in part due to the greatest journaling vehicle since sliced paper: the Hobonichi Techo life book.

Believe me, I’ve tried them all. My writing ritual came alive with marble composition notebooks, legal pads, Moleskines, When my responsibilities grew and important details advanced from flurries into a blizzard, I looked to more complex planners, like the Page-A-Day and FranklinCovey systems, with rules about which nooks and crannies got which important information. None stuck.

What’s different this time? The Hobonichi Techo (loosely translated from the Japanese as “almost everyday planner”) achieves near-perfection in design by balancing a considered sense of purpose for every detail and the freedom for individual style and creativity.

The Hobonichi Techo is the creation of Shigesato Itoi, an incredibly prolific writer previously best known for his role as auteur of the Mother EarthBound series of video games. In the late ’90s, after he found notoriety writing and directing games, he began writing a blog, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (The Itoi Pretty-Much-Daily News). In 2001, after he asked his audience whether they’d be interested in a Hobo-themed planner, the Techo was born.

Why is this interesting?

It’s a special month for Hobo addicts like me. The 2021 planners go on sale on September 1. Since the beginning of August, Itoi and his Hobo overlords have been counting down the days and teasing changes for the 20th-anniversary editions

This time, it’s more than the ritual of unwrapping our 2021 book sometime in November. In a year with little to look forward to, a simple calendar’s inevitability has taken on special significance. 

The Techo comes in several shapes and sizes and has a variety of cover options that protect the book and bring it to life with colors and characters. It features the exquisite Tomoe River paper, which accommodates many different inks and inspires its own obsessives. All the creative, crafty elements of scrapbooking—washi tape, stickers, fancy pens, and the like—are at home here. As you might expect, Reddit and Instagram are great places to see what people are doing with their books. 

For me, the focal point of my planner (a Cousin A5) is the daily page, where each evening I spend about 20 or 30 minutes jotting down an observation from the day, usually describing a scene, an interaction I want to remember, something I’m feeling, or a key decision. I list five things I’m grateful for and anything I’ve finished (like books or movies), and I make a rough translation of the quote at the bottom using Google Translate. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been entering the daily count of new COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in my state and county, and the number of days since my parents started quarantining. 

Toward the front of the book, a weeks-view page breaks each week down into day- and hour-long chunks. I still use a digital calendar system, but the Techo is where details from appointments and meetings are logged, along with weekly to-dos and work notes. A monthly spread at the front of the planner tracks big things, like birthdays and special days, and provides a place for me to code my daily mood and track important habits. There’s a space at the very front that lets you track progress toward long-term goals, which for me is a light worklog for a new manuscript. 

Journaling, especially if you include things you’re grateful for, is the cheapest possible therapy. It’s been shown to provide positive mental health benefitsalleviating anxiety, and tamping down intrusive thoughts while improving short-term memory. Focusing on gratitude has been shown to decrease materialism in young people, among the myriad benefits of gratitude in general

Nowadays, it also helps me throttle and process information and understand life in context. When you’ve got a big book of days, nothing on a single page is ever as big or as small as it seems at the time. (NP)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Nick (NP)

Why is this interesting? is a daily email from Noah Brier & Colin Nagy (and friends!) about interesting things. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing (it’s free!).