Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun  Sonya Park & Shigesato Itoi "Talking Craftsmanship With Our Neighbor Sonya"
2013 marks the debut of the Hobonichi Planner, the English edition of Hobonichi's famous techo. Sonya Park, the stylist and owner of lifestyle shop ARTS&SCIENCE, is the planner's creative director. This time, Itoi sits down with Sonya to discuss how they came to collaborate on the planner and their thoughts on design and craft.
English | Japanese
1 - Lead-Up to the English Version
2 - Things in Common
3 - Motive Over Marketing
4 - Thoughts of a Founder
5 - The Joy of Working Together
Hobonichi Planner Main Page

1 - Lead-Up to the English Version

Itoi I had the pleasure of working with ARTS&SCIENCE owner Sonya Park to create our very first English-language planner, the 2013 Hobonichi Planner. Thanks to Sonya, we've made a great product.
Sonya Thank you. It was a wonderful experience.
Itoi Our work together started when we came to you and proposed we collaborate on a planner cover.
Sonya That's right.
Itoi And then you offered to work with us on an English version of the planner itself. I think that was two years ago?
Sonya It has been that long, hasn't it.
Itoi In the office we'd always talk about wanting to collaborate with ARTS&SCIENCE, but we were waiting for the right time; we didn't want to pursue anything until we were able to prove ourselves. Then the Hobonichi Techo began to make a name for itself, and that's when we felt ready to pursue the collaboration. So finally I told my staff, "All right, guys, this is it. Go get turned down by Sonya." (laughs)
Sonya I didn't think you knew about our company.
Itoi I have lots of cloth ARTS&SCIENCE shopping bags at home.
Sonya Oh, are they your wife's?
Itoi Yeah. I have a dog, and a few times a year we take her on the bullet train with us to our other house in Kyoto. We have a cover over the dog cage that we made by snipping an ARTS&SCIENCE bag open with a scissors.
Sonya Wow.
Itoi Lugging that heavy thing onto the bullet train has left the ARTS&SCIENCE logo imprinted firmly in my mind. (laughs) I didn't learn until later that it was your store logo and that your shop and office were just down the street from us. When I asked my wife where she got it, she didn't even mention ARTS&SCIENCE and just said something like, "From Sonya's place." So it took a while for me to make the connection.
Sonya Ah, I see. When I first came to Tokyo, you were on television a lot. So all I knew was that you were famous. (laughs)
Itoi So you've been a Hobonichi Techo user?
Sonya I actually had no idea it existed despite its popularity. I've always wanted a planner with a page a day so I could combine my scheduler and my diary. At one point I bought a daily planner from a different company, but it was heavy and I barely used it. After that I tried all kinds of planners, and eventually I arrived at the Hobonichi Techo. It turned out that some of my employees had already been using it and were surprised I didn't know about it. I wanted to say, "Why didn't you tell me?!" (laughs)
Itoi Yeah.
Sonya So I received your proposal to design a cover and I liked the idea, but I have a lot of non-Japanese friends and thought it'd be great to have an English version of the planner. I also wanted to make something that was exactly what I wanted to use.
Itoi So you wanted to change the Hobonichi Techo for us.
Sonya No, well, the planner is a really great product, so I had the idea to preserve its appeal while simplifying the design. I wanted to retain the fundamentals since it would be an English version derived from the original Hobonichi Techo you created with designer Taku Sato. If it was a totally different product, it wouldn't even need to be through Hobonichi—I could have just made one myself.
Itoi Yeah. You and I talked a great deal about what we could let go of and what we couldn't. Some things are really important to us, so I had make a judgement call every time you suggested we change something. But at the same time, I'm glad I had a chance to recheck all the points I'd thought about over the years. You even suggested blank white pages.
Sonya Yeah. "Do you need these lines?" (laughs)
Itoi I thought about it for a bit, but it was good for me to be able to say which parts we could cut and which parts had to stay.
Sonya It feels like a music session and you, Taku and I are a three-man band with our own separate parts. The sound we create together has to be special.
Itoi That's true.
Sonya Take the grid size of the Japanese planner paper. Every year Taku sizes the grid in increments of 1/100th of a millimeter. After I heard that, I had lots of meetings with Taku about which grid size would suit the English version. It took a long time.
Itoi It did. After all, we decided from the beginning of production that it wouldn't be something we’d release first thing the following year. It might be rare for print material to take two years of work, but it was our first English version.
Sonya Even our reasoning for English was based not on American English or British English, but universal language English.
Itoi Right, it wasn't designed for English-speaking countries. We merely chose English as a means for constructing a tool that anyone in the world could use. I was impressed when you just pulled out all the holidays and said, "We don't need 'em!"
Sonya Holidays vary by country and religion, so when approaching this as something universally meaningful, I figured it was best to just leave them out.
Itoi Your resolve was amazing. We couldn't have made that decision without you. I think we only managed to pull it off because we were working with someone so world-travelled.
Sonya I've always found it a waste how few Japanese people can speak English. For example, Japanese fashion magazines are super thick and the publishers pore over even the most minute details. They're releasing something other countries can't make. If the whole thing were written in English, I think lots of foreigners would want to read it. My friends overseas tell me how fascinating things seem in Tokyo, but the language barrier stops anything from making it over.
Itoi That's really interesting. Even I've been making a conscious effort lately to communicate more with foreigners. I've found them so engaged in our conversations that I'm realizing how similar Japan is to other countries. You and I are working together at a good time.
Sonya I don't know if it's because of the internet, but the world is getting so small, isn't it? Even in my shop, I'm shocked when people find us all the way from overseas and contact us even though we don't really broadcast anything outside of Japan. I wonder where they heard about us--there's no way something like this would happen years ago.
Itoi Ah, that's true. When I travel overseas, once in a while a Japanese person will come up to me and say, "Are you Itoi? I read Hobonichi." What really surprises me is when she tells me her non-Japanese husband follows it, too. This would've been inconceivable way back when. So now I have this sense that people are reading our site even overseas.
Sonya Yeah. That's why now is the time to bring the Hobonichi Planner to the rest of the world. The inside's in English, but the cover has "techo" written in kanji. That’s partly because it's a cute emblem, but a Japanese techo is more than just a schedule management tool. It's a unique part of Japanese culture constructed from each person's personal life, so I want to spread the use of the word "techo" to the rest of the world.
Itoi Yeah, I don't think we could have come up with that idea ourselves.



Stylist: Michio Hayashi Photographer: Masahiro Sanbe