A borderless globe

How did the Hobonichi Globe come about?

What inspired the decision to create a globe?
And what were the ideas that went into the Second Model?
We asked Shigesato Itoi, Representative Director of Hobonichi,
the company that created the Hobonichi Globe.

Why did you decide to make a globe?

I first started thinking about making a globe because of a scene in a movie I had seen.

It's set during Japan's Warring States Period (1467-1615). The warlord Oda Nobunaga has an imported globe that was presented to him as a gift, and he's kicking it up like a soccer ball. You see the Earth up there in the clear blue sky.

It turned out I couldn't find any film with a scene like that. (Laughs.)

But for some reason, I had it in my head.

That scene was the initial starting point that got me thinking it would be fun if families around the world had a globe they could toss and kick around.

That was the first spark that made me think about making the Hobonichi Globe.

Back in the day, many families had a globe.

But you don't see them around anymore.

The word "global" is one we now use a lot every day, but families don't have the globes that symbolize that word.

I started to wonder why.

Then I thought about buying one for myself. I looked at lots of different globes, but the good one's were heavy, expensive things made for guys who are really into geography.

Plus, a globe on a mount seems like it's only made for serious study.

That's not what I wanted. I wanted a straightforward globe that gives the natural sensation that although you're standing on the Earth, you're also holding the planet.

As I pondered, I realized that the important thing for me is whether I can hold the globe or roll it around freely.

I imagined a globe with no stand and no mount. It was light and round, and you could roll it and kick it.

From that concept came the first Hobonichi Globe.

So, we already created what I wanted with the previous model.

Why, then, did we make a new globe with the Second Model?

To me, the Second Model is something entirely different from its predecessor.

To give a rough idea, this Hobonichi Globe contains three elements.

I refer to them as "planet," "world," and "home."

I'd like to explain them in order.

Planet, world, home

I'll start with "planet."

The Earth is a celestial body in space.

The Earth orbits the Sun.

The Earth has a satellite, the Moon.

When I refer to Earth this way, I am discussing it in the context of physics and astronomy.

In its broadest sense, a globe is a ball shaped like the Earth. And if you think of it that way, you think of the Earth as a celestial body.

When you look at this little Earth, questions pop up in your head. "Do rockets lift off from here?" "How far away would the Moon be?" "If this is the Earth, then how big would the Sun be?"

This little Hobonichi Globe is your gateway to experiencing the Earth as a celestial body.

That's how this globe is like a planet.

The next element is "world."

This product is global in the true sense of the word in that it represents society and civilization.

If I have a friend in the Netherlands, when I look at my globe, I might wonder what kind of place the Netherlands is and just how far away it is from Japan.

This product also provides a good, global view of the how the world is connected. For example, I might think that we Japanese are not terribly interested in conflict in the Middle East, but maybe it's simply because we're so far away.

That's how this globe makes you see the world for what it is.

The last element is "home."

It's a bit of an abstract idea, but the Hobonichi Globe is a globe that can become a part of the family.

For example, a housekey is a symbol of who can and cannot enter a home.

Likewise, TVs and computers are symbols of things that inform us about what's happening in the world.

In that sense, the Hobonichi Globe could be a symbol of something that connects the universe with our world and teaches us about the two.

I believe that like a key or a TV, the Hobonichi Globe can become a member of the family.

With no borders and no text, it's a globe for everyone.

To sum up what I've said so far, the Hobonichi Globe has a three-layer structure: planet, world, and home.

The Hobonichi Globe is also a toy.

It enters the home as neither a specialized apparatus nor an expensive educational tool, but as a small toy.

Yet it is not merely a toy. Hidden within is the potential to be media, study materials, and a platform.

The Hobonichi Globe is one point within a model of the universe, containing knowledge to teach us about the world.

You can also hold this little Earth in your hand like a ball.

A small child could roll it around and play with it.

And when that happens, it has become a wonderful member of the family.

The biggest reason why the Hobonichi Globe has a three-layer structure of planet, world, and home is that it has no borders and no text.

Being a borderless globe means it can better play the role of a planet, and I think it makes that three-layer structure clearly evident.

National borders and the names of countries have always been the arbitrary creations of people, and they keep on changing as time passes.

The world looks different depending on where you are, and so do maps.

In a way, there is an endless number of correct ways to portray the world on a map.

With this Second Model, all the means of using a globe for the traditional purpose of examining national borders and country names have been placed in the app. That makes this globe unlike any other before it.

And thanks to this novel approach, the app can portray the changing Earth at any time.

The lack of text also allowed us to create a smaller globe.

Because it is an Earth with no borders or labels, we can truly say that the Hobonichi Globe is for everyone.

There were many things to keep in mind as we turned the concept into reality, but when I see the finished product for myself, it makes me think we've really made something special.