Here in Oregon, it started to rain constantly and the days are getting shorter every day. It's perfect time to stay indoors and write in journals. Also, at this time of the year, people start to look for journals for the coming year - so I wanted to write about my current journal set up.
I always either go to Japan or find someone to go there in the fall to obtain this book. Last year, I went there at the end of November, and couldn't find the dark gray I always buy - so I ended up with the red cover. They have a few other options too like craft paper color which was less attractive to me. This year I had a friend track it down for me (the one with yellow cover) in dark gray, so I am happy about that. This year for the first time, I saw this on Amazon - for $30, which is crazy, but still cheaper than going to Japan. I would pay $30 over having to look for another journal. I love it that much.
Muji has the same notebook in A5, which I also got a few in 2017 and used as my sketchbooks. I just LOVE the smooth paper and lay out. As a con, all the holidays are Japanese holidays, which isn't so great for other countries - Personally, I have used Japanese planner all my life, so I am used to it and have learned to ignore it.
I am very picky about datebooks. My criteria:
- Has to lay out flat
- Sat/Sun in one shared space is NG - I like each day to have the same sized space
- No ring binding
- Monthly layout has to start on Monday
- Minimal information (I don't like additional information such as international country codes or shoe sizes listed on Moleskine, nor some daily commentary on Hobonichi)
- Don't like gold covering at edges, I don't like shiny embossing in general.
- Don't like journals that comes with pens or pencils on the spine
The white pen on the journal is the only pen I write with in this journal - it's Uni Jetstream 0.5mm, and this is probably my third Jetstream. The ink is like a hybrid of rollerball and ballpoint pen - I am not a big fan of ballpoint with an exception for this pen. Jetpens.com has a comprehensive explanations of how this pen works.
While it writes like a rollerball or gel pen with dark, smooth ink, it dries quickly and waterproof once dry, which is very important for me as I do color code my entries with highlighters (shown in the photo above). I use 4 colors to highlight my entries depending on my activities - I use green for fun activities, yellow for obligations such as work meetings or doctors appointments, orange for time spent for art, and pink for physical exercises. At the end of the week, I can quickly look it over my weekly spread to see how balanced my life that week (for me). While I love gel pens, most pens smudge with highlighters. This pen doesn't. At 150 yen, I can't imagine how this technology can be produced and sold so inexpensively. I used to buy several when I go to Japan, but nowadays you can easily get these from Jetpens or Amazon. I use this pen only for this notebook and for nothing else, so it lasts a long time. I use 0.5mm, but Uniball makes other sizes, and I have 0.7mm as well, which somehow feels more like ballpoint rather than a gel pen - so I don't use it as often personally.
For the plans that are not finalized yet, I would use either pencil or Pilot Frixion (shown above, Frixion ball slim in 0.38mm in green I bought in Japan) - basically something I can erase later.
For this datebook, I use Uni Jetstream in black, pencil/erasable ink pen, and highlighters - that's it. I don't use anything else. I don't include any stickers, nor inserts, nor anything here - my datebook is very streamlined and meant to record my activities and future planning. I also write some lists on the right side of weekly spreads sometimes but never a lot. I use this everyday, and a bit OCD about it, like many Japanese people.
I use all kind of pens in here. I really like gel pens in my sketchbook, because they write smoothly, I can see the ink level and they smudge easily - this may sound weird, but I personally use pens with light wash in my sketchbooks, so for the exactly opposite reasons from the fine tip pen for my watercolor, I use smudgable pens which is an assets to me, even though it can be annoying some other times. Other important point for me is if it bleeds or not - I hate bleeding, so any pens that bleeds won't get used. Other than that, i pretty much use anything here - currently I am using Uniball Vision Elite (it doesn't leak on the airplane so I take this when I travel) and Uniball micro rollerball pen. I also routinely use Pilot G-2, Zebra Sarasa, Uniball Signo. All these brands, along with Pentel, Sakura, Too, and Kuretake has been around for at least thirty years in Japan, and I would trust pens from any of these companies. I am from Japan, so I am very partial from Japanese pens. Also a big fan of Staedtler which makes my favorite drawing pencils.
For calligraphy I am currently using ZIG clean color, and sometimes I use Stabilo pens, both of which came in Artsnacks.com subscription box. I do have a HUGE collection of pens (in random estimate from someone who knows me well.. approximately 952 in my collection. UGH.), mainly black gel pens I draw with, and I am working on having less... so I am mainly working on using what I have at hand before they go bad. Yes, pens go bad - so use them!
I am not too crazy about embellishments and stickers and such, but I keep a lot of mementos inside, which will result in super fat books. I don't care for spiral bound sketchbooks or super fat sketchbooks, so I commit a sin.... I do tear pages out to accommodate additional items I am adding as needed. This is why I have not purchased certain journals with pre-printed pages because it will make it obvious that some pages are missing and that would bother my OCD (haha). I am fine doing this, but I know some people gasped here... At the end of the day, this is where you are expressing your creativity I feel - so do what you want, absolutely. If you want to keep all the pages, please do so.
- First week of the year I was using Moleskine special edition for 50 years of audio cassette with blank pages. It had blank pages, and I liked it okay. I like Art Plus and watercolor sketchbook from Moleskine, but other journals from Moleskine I don't typically seek out..
- For the next 8 weeks I used a Piccadilly journal with square print paper inside. I bought this long time ago on sale, and I am trying to use up what I have... Paper quality is similar to Moleskine but slightly worse. I didn't like square prints that were too dark for my liking. The worst of all was that the binding fell apart at the top and bottom - quite displeased about it. I probably won't buy another from this brand.
- Next 7 weeks I used Unni journal with blank page. I bought this on Amazon specifically because of it's yellow cover because I was going to Spain for the first time. The cover got dirty, but it's soft to touch and didn't fall apart during heavy traveling. I liked it, and their customer service is great. Paper quality is similar to Moleskine, and less expensive - so I would recommend this as an alternate to Moleskine if you want to try something else.
- Next 7 weeks I used 2017 Muji datebook in A5. Then next 13 weeks I used another 2017 Muji datebook in A5. these are soft covers and about $12 (both bought in Japan). I love these smooth papers, and because Muji doesn't make a journal with this paper without calendars that I know of, I decided to ignore all the dates and used it as a sketchbook. It worked fine, and I would do it again. by the way, Muji makes sketchbooks - but they are spiral bound. Darn.
- Next 6 weeks I used red cover 2017 Moleskine datebook and used it similarly to Muji. The paper is even worse than the regular sketchbook from Moleskine - just not a fan.
- And now I am using poppin A5 lined journal, which is just okay - As I mentioned, it's lined and I paid only $1. It functions but softcover gets grangy for me, and I prefer blank pages or dotted pages. I am glad I just bought one and didn't stock pile it.
I am now anticipating to use the current journal before the end of the year and have already ordered a couple of journals for 2018 (in addition to Muji datebook), despite having over 10 blank journals at hand. I am afraid I am a bit addicted... and I hope you are too.
If you are thinking about starting a journal for 2018 - my recommendation is just start. All you need is a blank notebook and a pen. This can be a college notebook and a ballpoint pen, all can be bought at Staples for $2. It really doesn't matter what you use as long as you love it. Fancy stationery doesn't matter. Just know what you love and stick with it. I have kept journals as long as I can remember and have always enjoyed it - I hope you do too!!