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Hobonichi

I don’t normally get excited about stationery, but for one day a year I get extremely excited about stationery. Today is that day.

Hobonichi, or Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, is a company founded by Mother series writer/director Shigesato Itoi. Its flagship product is the Hobonichi Techo, a daily planner. I’ve been using it for years.

Each August Hobonichi reveals the next year’s techo lineup, in which the main attraction is the dozens of custom-designed covers. In the past few years I’ve looked forward to these reveals with an excitement that’s usually reserved for, say, new iPhones at an Apple event or new video games at E3.

It’s not that I collect Hobonichi stuff; I buy exactly one planner and one cover a year. (There’s always a Mother cover, and I usually just get that.) Rather, it’s that I love seeing the storefront come online. The full 2020 lineup was revealed today—or late last night, in my timezone—and I’ve been paging through it ever since.

Here are some things I love about it:

The staged photos are delightful and evocative—way better than they need to be. There are more than a hundred items for sale and each has multiple shots, so I’ve already lost a lot of time here! Some favorites from this year’s set: one, two, three, four, five, six.

The copy is fun. It has a charming archaic quality but also an extremely precise translation, like a cross between an ‘80s magazine ad and an Iwata Asks interview:

The complex color scheme and sparkling silver threads make this a playful cover that also exudes a sense of fashion.

Or:

The vibrant color can fill you with energy when you see it, so this cover is perfect for users who are looking to spend an energetic year ahead.

Or:

Just as a honey bee seeks and collects nectar, so you should seek out all of life’s joys and gather them into your techo.

The covers themselves are always nice, but some are especially clever. This one is made out of scraps of designer clothing and handbags. This one is made like a miniature backpack. This one has strips of fabric sewn on to mimic washi tape (and there is also real washi tape for sale that mimics the fabric).

There are even little surprises hidden around the store. One cover includes a contest where you can win a handwoven bag from the Pwo Karen tribe in Thailand, which inspired the design. Another, a collaboration with German teddy bear company Steiff, has its own fairy tale.

I’m sure someone finds it gauche to be so taken by literal marketing materials, but Hobonichi is disarming in a way that no other brand is for me. If I could subscribe to a print catalog from them, I would.