The center-point of the compass rests in the Hobonichi Techo. Shigesato Itoi

As we near the release of the Hobonichi Techo 2019 lineup, we bring you this year’s interview with Shigesato Itoi. Itoi tells us all the things he rediscovered over a year spent making full use of the Hobonichi Techo.

When I’m alone thinking, ​my Hobonichi Techo is open.

In the past I’ve often taken the side of people who are rather light users of the Hobonichi Techo. I know all the good points of the Hobonichi Techo myself, but if the only users we talk about are the ones who use their book to the fullest we run the risk of intimidating people who might think they could never use their own so well.

That’s why I’ve always wanted to stay in a place that allowed me to relate with those light users — to let them know using the techo however they can is okay. And rather than emphasize how amazing the Hobonichi Techo can be, I’ve tried to balance things out by telling users it’s okay to just carry it around lightheartedly, or use it in place of their wallets. But this past year I decided to really pour myself into the Hobonichi Techo.

I’ve often said that it’s not necessary to devote yourself to using your techo in any specific way, but last year I found myself wondering what would happen if I challenged myself to use it on a deeper level. When the year rolled over I made an effort to write in it every day, like the users I see who always take full advantage of their own techos. I wanted to experience what others seemed to have for myself — and as I continued to use my techo in this way, it turned out to be just as fun as I’d hoped.

Since I organize and track work plans digitally, most of the schedule I write in my techo is about things outside of work. I write in things like restaurant reservations, concert dates, and bullet train timetables. Handwriting something into my techo — even if it’s just a restaurant reservation made far in advance — grounds it much more firmly in reality.

Whenever I’m thinking something over, I’ve got my techo by my side. It might be a wrong idea, but I’ll still write it down in my techo to keep a record of it. The first step in drawing with a compass is pinning the point of the needle securely at the center of the circle; I feel like the Hobonichi Techo is that secure center-point.

Without a techo my thoughts would stay fluttering in my mind. Writing them down in my techo gives me a hint to work from; it’s a first step, even if I’m not quite on track yet. You can’t just rely on a good thought popping into your head when you need it, so it’s important to jot it down and keep it safe. Then you can add on to it little by little, building a wall brick-by-brick.

When I spent quality time with my techo,
 ​I could feel the “Life” behind it.

Sometimes I write in my techo when something good happens to a friend or an acquaintance. Doing that helps me enjoy my own daily life. I really think our life is made up of the time we spend with other people, and keeping track of what’s happening in my friends’ lives makes me want to spend more time with them. It’s fascinating to collect their experiences inside my own Hobonichi Techo, and having so much to work with has made it surprisingly easy to keep up with my entries.

The extra effort I was making made the Hobonichi Techo feel fresh to me all over again. Going back and reading my entries felt like looking back on photographs I took while out walking my dog. I’m the one that came up with the slogan “This is my Life.”, but even I was struck by how true it rang when I spent more time with the techo.

Even though I’m the creator of the Hobonichi Techo, I’ve always trailed behind as a user of the techo. After casually walking alongside other users for years, it feels like I’ve finally broken out into a jog. I feel the joy that comes with breaking a sweat, and I’m discovering what it really means to accumulate the layers that come to form one’s “Life.”

Life is a simple word, but it’s deep, too. And it reminds me that the techo allows users to record our Life as a tangible thing we can hold onto or pass on to others. Life is a collection of everything that makes us who we truly are, and I’m so glad that using the Hobonichi Techo has given me the opportunity to become acutely aware of my own.

When I started actively participating in our “Hobonichi Techo Meeting Caravan” meetups I began to feel jealous of other techo users; I wanted to get a taste of all the excitement they were experiencing. It reminds me of the people who have told me they decided to get a dog after following my stories about my own dog — not just because they loved dogs, but because having a dog seemed like so much fun. It’s easy to find yourself yearning for the good times you watch other people have.

The more effort you put in, the happier you get.

It always requires some effort, or exacts some cost, to enjoy something. Many people would like to get more out of their Hobonichi Techo than they already do, but feel like spending more time scratching their pens over the pages would be a pain. But a little extra effort isn’t too much to ask of yourself.

Even I had to tell myself, “Surely you can do that much.” If I couldn’t get myself to do it no matter what, that was fine. But I knew I wanted to at least make it a habit before I gave up.

This year I changed things up a little by buying a fountain pen, and I’m glad I did. Waiting for the ink to dry can be a little inconvenient, but that was part of the fun. After I wrote about my day I would leave the book open to dry and hop into the bath. Soaking in the bath gave me more time to think, and when I got out it was easy to add my new thoughts to what I’d already put down. The open techo felt especially welcoming.

There’s something to be said for making a daily ritual of your Hobonichi Techo entries. It’s going to involve some costs on your end, and some extra effort, but the reward will make those very efforts enjoyable. The more effort you put into something, the happier it will make you — the Hobonichi Techo is a prime example.

Photography: Nobuki Kawaharazaki