Kokuyo IDEA Notebooks (Tomoe River Paper)


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).

11 thoughts on “Kokuyo IDEA Notebooks (Tomoe River Paper)

  1. Thank you for that review! It’s great to see another product which uses the fantastic Tomoe River paper. – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the limits of Japanese design!


    1. Thank you for your kind words, Gunther, but that particular post needs some more work ;) I was glad too to find another TR paper planner. At least there are more options!


  2. 몰스킨을 쓰면서 가장 고민되는 게 오래 보관할 자료와 일회성 기록이 마구 뒤섞여 버린다는 점입니다. Cam Scanner 같은 디지털 기술의 도움을 받아 태그별로 사후 정리해보기도 하고, 몰스킨 A4 바인더마저도 시험해본 바가 있습니다만… 만약 기록을 정리정돈할 필요는 느끼면서도 어플리케이션이나 바인더 노트를 사용하는 것은 너무 ‘낭만이 없다’고 생각되는 경우라면 고쿠요의 위 방식처럼 기록의 수명에 따라 얇은 노트 여러 권을 체결해서 사용하는 방식이 최선일 것 같습니다.


    1. 저도 그런 고민을 해봤는데요 (지난 수첩을 안 버리는 이유이기도 하지요), 제가 느낀 것은 그런 “오래 보관할 정보”도 결국은 한두 해도 지나지 않아 바뀌는 경우가 비일비재하더라고요. 그래서 저는 그런 정보는 갱신되는 대로 현재 플래너에 간략하게 옮겨 적습니다. 그리고 다른 여러 가지 목록은 따로 다른 수첩에 기록하는데 그런 걸 플래너의 일부로 끼워넣고 매일같이 휴대하고 다닐 필요가 있을까 싶어요. 하지만 플래너라는 것은 개인 취향을 많이 타니까 분명 그런 방식을 선호하는 사람들도 있겠지요.

      이 플래너에서 한 해 미만으로 쓸 수첩이나 메모장에만 토모에리버 종이를 쓰고 장기보관할 노트는 다른 재질의 종이를 사용했다는 것이 흥미로웠습니다.


      1. MIO paper는 Campus 노트의 일부 라인에 사용되는 종이로 알고 있는데요. 고쿠요는 낮은 평량으로도 높은 품질을 뽑아낼 수 있는 제조사지요. 게다가 제품 하나하나 ‘기능적 고민 속에 디자인한’ 흔적이 느껴지고요.


      2. 미도리의 MD paper랑 비슷한 브랜딩인지도 모르겠네요. 고쿠요는 품질 좋은 건 알겠는데 제품들이 다들 학생풍이라 좀 아쉬워요 =.=


  3. I’m finding all kinds of goodies here, Sola!
    I will have to be on the look out for this Kokuyo notebook and the elaborate Jibun Techo system, out of curiosity. Whether you publish the post or not (no pressure!), I also like where you were going with the limits of Japanese design. Sometimes when I see very structured planners or journals, I wonder if I’m not recording things enough or if I’d kick myself later for not having written down certain things… Then I get frustrated for overwhelming myself!

    Anyway, I like that margin on the left! What are you going to use this notebook for? Have you looked into Hobonichi graph notebooks with Tomoe River paper? http://www.1101.com/store/techo/2015/planner/detail_toolstoys/tt_o_memocousin.html The smaller version comes with perforation though.


    1. I haven’t decided yet… Actually slim notebooks in small formats present a challenge to me. But the Hobonichi ones look good! Thanks to you I hopped over to the Hobonichi site and spent a pleasant half-hour browsing through the store ;) At this moment the biggest question for me is whether to stick with the same planner for next year or move up to a Cousin.


  4. Recently I’ve been doing a fair amount of research regarding Japanese planners. I’ve noticed that the Japanese have a completely different approach to managing and recording life events. I find Jibun techo and zillions of Japanese planners are too complicated and regions for its own good. That’s probably why the simple and clean design of Hobonichi scores well with international fans.

    I have a question that I can’t seem to find in English or Japanese: how many pages are there in the Idea notebook? I think that info should have been included in specifications, but somehow no one bothers to mention it.


    1. I just counted them – 40 sheets (80 pages). Hope that helps! And I agree, many Japanese products do seem unnecessarily complicated (and that’s why simple Western designs feel like a breath of fresh air!), but my own view is that they are used to handling so much more information in their everyday lives that the tendency towards complexity comes as second nature. When this is successfully held in check, simple classics are born ;)

      BTW according to my stats this post attracts an embarrasing amount of interest compared to the effort I took to write it up. I got a three-pack of these, gifted one and have two left, and I am still waiting for the perfect moment to start using it…


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