Using a Planner in Japanese and other Hobonichi Stuff


After sharing some photos of my new Hobonichi Techo Cousin on the Google+ Bullet Journal Community, I got several questions about what it’s like to use a planner that’s not written in English. So, I thought I’d share some detailed photos of the Hobonichi so you can see how it works. The good news is that I think it’s totally possible to use a planner in another language. The great news is that Hobonichis are very well designed so that makes using this planner even easier.

Despite my optimism on the topic, I do understand the desire to use a tool that’s written in your native language. This is the first year that Hobonichi Cousins have been available for sale via the English store and I have a theory that they’re testing interest in the product. I’m betting that if enough people buy the Japanese version of the Cousin from the English store, we’ll see an English translation for 2016.

Anyway, theories aside, let’s dive in. This post is a little photo intensive, so you’re welcome.

Yearly Views


From the 3-year view section. In the 2015, you see calendars like this for 2014, 2015 and 2016

As you can see, the months are represented by their number and the days of the week are all in Japanese (I have no idea if that’s Hiragana or Katakana. Someone who speaks Japanese, please educate me). In the Hobonichi Cousin, the weeks always start on Monday. Saturdays are represented by grey text, Sundays are represented by the red text and Japanese holidays are a slightly more pale red color.


Yearly view for 2015

After the 3 year overview, there is the yearly view for 2015. This is a very Bullet Journal style page in my mind with the dates for each month written in a single column running down the length of the page. Each month has a header where the month is identified by its number and its English name. The English name is in smaller text on the right, but that’s not a huge deal to me. They follow the same trend for color coding the days of the week here – Saturdays are represented by grey,Sundays by red and Japanese holidays by a slightly more pale red color. My only complaint about this aspect of the design is that they need to make the distinction between the Sunday red and the Holiday slightly more pale red a little more pronounced in future editions.

Knowing basically nothing about the Japanese language, but a little about Korean (한국어), I wonder if they follow a similar naming pattern for their months as they do in Korean where each month is named for its number in the calendar year. For example, January is “one month” (일월), February is “two month” (이월). etc. I say this because here you see a roman numeral followed by the same symbol each month.

Monthly Views


In the monthly layouts, you again get the month represented by its number and the English name and the days of the week are written in Japanese and abbreviated English.

IMG_3515 IMG_3516 IMG_3517

They’ve again followed the exact same design they’ve used in the previous 2 sections of the book: Saturdays are grey, Sundays are red and holidays are a slightly more pale reddish/pink color.

I really like the shaded boxes surrounding the date in the monthly layout. It makes weekends and holidays stand out more. Plus if I want to add in English holidays, I can always go through and color in with a colored pencil or highlighter to get the same effect. It also has lots of room for writing other important information like birthdays, pay days, deadlines, etc.

Weekly Views


In the weekly layouts, the month is again represented by its number and English name. You also get to see what week of the year it is and it’s all in English. They’ve included a little monthly view that shows you where in the month you are.

HobonichiCousinDetails_41 HobonichiCousinDetails_42The days of the week are represented by their date and Japanese character only. Sadly, no English on the days of the week in this view, but since the weeks all start on Monday and Saturday / Sunday are clearly labeled using the same design they’ve used everywhere else (Sunday = red, Saturday = grey, holidays = paler red) it shouldn’t be that confusing.

Daily Views

The daily layouts are the meat and potatoes of a Hobonichi. They’re also the only place where they’ve taken a small break from their established design. I think this is the place where you’re the most likely to get confused. Keep scrolling to see what I’m talking about.


This is July 8, 2015. The 189th day in 2015.

Each of the months is color coded. Every page for a specified month is printed in its own unique color. July happens to be this pretty blue color, so blue ink for everything. The date and month are both represented by roman numerals. The month is represented by the smaller number on the left of the page and the date is the larger number. The day of the week is only written in Japanese. One of my favorite things about this book is they include the moon phase and the day of the year.






Since they print the month with only one color of ink, they do away with the grey Saturday / red Sunday thing. Instead, they just fill in the box for Saturday and Sunday, which makes them a little bit harder to identify from one another. I plan to remind myself that Saturday always comes before Sunday, so when I’m flipping through I should be okay. I could actually see the weekdays getting more confusing because there are 5 of them to have to identify. If you’re worried about getting confused about which day of the week it is based on this layout, Hobonichi has a done a great thing with the design of their daily spreads…



You get a monthly view on every single page that shows you exactly where you are in relation to the whole month. And since they followed their previous design, the weeks start with Monday. I can keep from getting confused thanks to this one thing right here.

HobonichiCousinDetails_55And if you happen to have a hard time remembering what month it is, they’ve also got the month number on the right side of each page. I could see this being helpful if you look at the header and get confused about which number represents the month and which represents the date.

So all in all, the design saves my lack of understanding Japanese and there is plenty of English sprinkled around in key places to keep me on track. Using the daily spreads could be a little tricky and require a little bit of extra thinking, but thanks to the smart design, I’m really not too concerned about getting lost within the month. I have a suspicion that I might accidentally learn to read just a tiny bit of Japanese with this book as well.

What do you think about the layout of the Hobonichi in Japanese? Would you be able to work with a book that’s not written in your native language, or would this be too much trouble? Share your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading!





  1. readsquirrel (@readsquirrel) · November 25, 2014

    I am waiting for my Hobonichi Cousin to arrive–this article was helpful to see a breakdown of what the pages will look like. I do speak a little Japanese though it’s rusty. Days are officially written with three kanji together, but they often use the first kanji as a shorthand because that is the one that changes per day:
    Sunday – Sun
    Monday – Moon
    Tuesday – Fire
    Wednesday – Water
    Thursday – Wood/Tree
    Friday – Metal/Gold
    Saturday – Earth
    The month labels are using the same kanji for moon that is used to indicate Monday. Kind of poetic, isn’t it?

    • Megan C · November 25, 2014

      Thanks so much for sharing! Your explanation helps a lot.

      This is actually very similar to Korean where each day of the week is 3 syllable groups with the last 2 syllable groups being the same, but the first one always changing. They actually use very similar words to the Japanese days of the week.

      • readsquirrel (@readsquirrel) · November 25, 2014

        That is so neat to learn! Thank you for that!

      • kaaaaaaat · December 2, 2014

        Hi! Jumping in to say that yes, very similar indeed. Both the Japanese and Korean days of the week stem from the olden Chinese system of naming the days of the week (which are largely forgotten now). In Korean, the Hanja used for the names of the week are the same as the Kanji used in Japanese. ^^

        Also, I love the title of your blog! ^^ ㅎㅎ

      • Megan C · December 2, 2014

        Thanks for the info!! I had a suspicion it was based on a Chinese system 🙂

        Glad you like the title! A friend of mine helped me come up with it. I couldn’t resist using it!

  2. JudyLynn · December 3, 2014

    Thank you for this. I’m using the A6 size for 2015 (my first year with a Hobonichi) and am concerned the pages will be too small, so I’m glad to have a more in-depth look at the Cousin than I can get off their website. My only worry would be that I’d forget those little monthly views in the corner are Monday-starting weeks. 🙂

    • Megan C · December 4, 2014

      I switched to Monday-start weeks years ago. For whatever reason, it just works better in my brain. But I know that I have colleagues who will look at my Google Calendar and will get totally confused because they’re Sunday-start thinkers.

      For me, that little calendar is totally natural, but I can totally see how it could be difficult if you’re used to a Sunday start week.

      This is the first week I’ve used my Hobonichi in earnest and I was getting confused by the days of the week already. I went through and wrote in the days of the week in English. Took me about 3 seconds when I did it on Monday. I could see myself just incorporating that into my weekly review going forward

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