Hobonichi Niuhans Wallet review

Somehow there is still a perception with tourists that New Zealand is safe. In reality, while you’re unlikely to get mugged, tourists are sitting ducks for property theft. If you take a campervan/RV around New Zealand, take your passport, cash, and electronics with you every single time you leave the camper. Even if it’s for 2 minutes. If you leave your motel room to go to dinner, take your passport, cash, and electronics with you. All of them! Just try googling “Tourists lose everything theft New Zealand” some time.

Back in January, on my daily walk, I found a distraught tourist and her 8-year-old daughter in the beach carpark near my home. Their car had been stolen, including their clothes, bags, and phones. I loaned them my phone, but she was not pleased to learn that when you call about a stolen vehicle in Auckland the police tell you to come in to the station, file a report, and they’ll give you a copy for your insurance claim. That’s the extent of the action. The tourists were staying in a motel clear on the other side of Auckland, and she was even less impressed to find out a) there is no Uber service in my part of Auckland, and b) there was a minimum three-hour wait for a taxi, thanks to being a long way from the CBD, and it being a public holiday.

What else could I do but drive them back to their motel (also swing by McDonalds to buy cheeseburgers because an upset, sunburned, overtired 8-year-old requires immediate sedation in the form of carbohydrates and processed cows. How else will women learn to eat our feelings?)  The best moment of the drive was when the tourist said to me, “I suppose I shouldn’t have left my keys in the car.” Yes, she believed that NZ was some idyllic paradise where you could leave your car unlocked all day at the beach (perhaps she’d been reading 1930s tourist brochures). The next best was when we somehow ended up talking Hobonichi, as we were both fans.

Anyway, five weeks later I received a completely unexpected thank you gift from my tourist: the Hobonichi Niuhans wallet. Which is seriously a lovely, lovely thing to receive and was entirely unnecessary. I forced myself to carefully put away my A5 Safari and I’ve given the A6 wallet a test drive for the last six weeks.

Niuhans is a Japanese men’s fashion brand which sells hipster classics in solid colors and their own denim weave: the same denim the wallet is made from.

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The wallet holds the Hobonichi Original Techo. The zip is brass and solid and seems like it would wear well. The exterior is slightly padded. I’d prefer it if unpadded, but with a fabric cover this would make it wear out faster.

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However I seriously doubt the Niuhens wallet could actually work with the Original Techo.I don’t have an actual Original Techo, but I first tried a similar-sized Stalogy notebook and once I added my cards into the slots it bulked up and would barely zip up. I had more luck with a Kokuyo Buncobon grid notebook I found in my credenza. This notebook is actually a cracker little buy: USD$4 from Jet Pens. But if you wanted to carry a Hobonichi in here I think you’d much better off with the Avec (the two-volume six-month edition).

I found the pen loop annoying. It only holds the pen clip, not the barrel. Even so, to put the pen in and out I had to fold back the top edge of the wallet zip, and then fold it forward into place to fasten it. This got old quickly.

There’s a weird little pocket I still have no idea of the use for. Gillian St Kevern suggested it was for a flash drive, which is the only thing I can see even vaguely making sense, although I’m open to other ideas.


I really missed having a secretary pocket for receipts and papers. There’s a tiny nub of a secretary pocket but it’s not deep enough to hold more than a folded EFTPOS receipt.

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There simply weren’t enough card slits in the wallet for me, but luckily I already had a Hobonichi card case from a couple of years ago. One annoying thing with the card slits is the fabric lining separated from the leather pretty much immediately. This makes it hard to get the cards back into the slots. When I try to slide them in with one hand they go into the space between lining and leather, so they go in about 2cm and no further, leaving me fumbling like an idiot at the checkout counter.

The purse can hold a small number of coins, and I’ve always thought I missed a coin purse, but as I added coins the thickness of the wallet increased quickly, and then I ran into the same issue of bulk, with the zip no longer fastening easily (even with the thin notebook). The coin zip was also sticky and difficult to open, even after I applied a little silicon non-stick spray. I’d be happier if the coin purse was sacrificed for a deeper secretary pocket.

tiny pocket

This is a tiny issue and is probably be idiosyncratic to me, but even after six weeks I still expected to unfasten the wallet with the zip finishing on top, not on the bottom. I was forever opening the wallet back to front and upside down.

The wallet is fine, but the thing I want from my everyday carry items is that my use of them requires no thought. I just want it to work. And there were enough tiny issues that I had to pay attention as I used the wallet. I can’t complain about carrying less, but I missed my A5 notebook. I can’t think in an A6: the space is too confined. I know a lot of people find A5 far too bulky to carry around, but I have no problem with it. It’s hard to lose an A5 wallet. And it can hold a ton. I’m always confident that whatever I need for the day, I have it with me.

As you can probably tell, I moved back into my beloved A5 at the weekend. The gift was so thoughtful and kind, but this is not the wallet for me.

3 thoughts on “Hobonichi Niuhans Wallet review

  1. Pingback: Review: The Journal Writing Superpower Secret by Michael Forest | Books After Dark.

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