Recently I discovered an interesting set of small notebooks at Nanami Paper. Tomoe River Paper products are still a rarity, and even then most come in blank sheet form, but this notebook offered the grid, my favorite ruling by far – but it was an interesting kind of ultra-minuscule grid. I bought it anyway because I haven’t been able to find any grid-lined Tomoe Rivers apart from the Hobonichi Planner yet.
Upon further research, I discovered that this notebook was not intended to be a stand-alone product, but is part of an elaborate planner system invented by a Mr Hideaki Sakuma called the “Jibun-Techo” (The “Me” Planner?). This three-part planner, manufactured and marketed by Kokuyo, consists of a Diary (the usual yearlong monthly/weekly scheduler, that you replenish each year), a Life notebook in which you enter all sorts of information that does not change year by year (lists, family trees, anniversaries, mottoes, addresses, passwords etc.), and a freestyle Idea notebook, which is this one. So basically what they sell at Nanami are the refills for this planner system, minus the planner itself. The Diary and Idea notebooks use Tomoe River Paper, but the Life uses something called MIO Paper.
The Jibun Techo system seems to be founded on a very different philosophy from that of the Hobonichi planner, which is why I can’t imagine myself getting one. In the early months of this blog I began a post entitled “The Limits of Japanese Design”, in which I argued that the simple, Zen-like aesthetic that people think comes naturally to the Japanese was actually the result of a superhuman effort to restrain the instinct towards complexity that, unchecked, would run to information overload. I ditched the post halfway through because it was starting to sound like a rant about something I wasn’t sure I knew all that well. But stuff like the Jibun Techo reminds me of all that all over again… Some ideas are great but just too complicated to follow through in practice (at least for me).