Household notes on uses, importance, care & dangers of forgery of the Hanko


You can’t register the following seals:

A seal which bear a name other than the name which appears on your Alien Registration Certificate;
A seal made of materials such as rubber which can easily be deformed;
A seal which is chipped or worn out:
A seal which does not have an outer line which surrounds the name;
A seal which can’t be contained in a 20 mm x 20 mm square;
A seal which is considered to be inappropriate for a registered seal.
The OSS would like to recommend you the hanko-shop called Shoseido-inbo located in Itsuka-machi (Tel: 76-2220) for you.

Source: IUJ student services

Losing the hanko:

An important point of caution: if you use your registered hanko for big ticket items (bank accounts, property deeds, etc) It is extremely inadvisable to use the same hanko for daily invoices, deliveries, etc. With modern technology, hankos are relatively easy to forge

One word of caution to everyone: be careful with hanko. I had one stolen once and it took me a long time at the police department to cancel the old one and fill out the paper work, plus canceling the old one at the bank and ward office.

Also, keep a very close eye on what banks attempt to do when the put your name down in katakana. They makes mistakes and these mistakes can come back to haunt you. It took me many years and much wasted effort trying to correct a bank misspelling of my name (in katakana) and there were arguments about the validity of my hanko. Banks particularly are notoriously lax about correcting their own mistakes.– source

And more funny stories about problems with the recording of foreign names on hanko here and here.

Q: Can foreigners use signatures instead of hanko for transactions?

Larger banks like Mitsubishi allow signatures, but smaller banks require the hanko. According to a Japan Times article, you may choose to use a signature, however the signature has to be verified by owner’s foreign government, so it’s fairly troublesome.  Also according to the JT article (posted immediately following), an 1899 statute, Meiji 32 Year Law No. 50, states that foreigners can use signatures instead of a seal in situations where laws require Japanese to officially acknowledge a document with a hanko. According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, when foreigners report to government offices on property transactions or the creation of a company in Japan — procedures that legally require Japanese to use jitsuin hanko — they may use a signature but are required to certify it with their home government.

‘Hanko’ fate sealed by test of time Japan Times, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

Staff writer
A “hanko” personal seal is a necessary item for most adults in Japan, serving the same role as a signature in the West.

“Hanko” stamp impressions are the main proof of authenticity in Japanese culture.

Following are some questions and answers about the hanko system:

What is a hanko and how is it used?

Hanko stamps can be made from various materials, ranging from ivory to wood to plastic. The bottom part is where the stamp portion protrudes, bearing the name of an individual or organization. The user dips the protrusion in ink, then affixes the imprint on documents at the spot designated for a signature or other form of acceptance.

How far back do hanko date and when did Japanese adopt them?

Hanko date back to 5500 B.C., when people in the Middle East began engraving their personal symbols on stones, shells and clay and leaving impressions to identify property as their own.

Hanko use first spread to Europe, and then Asia.

The oldest existing hanko in Japan is made of gold. It was given in A.D. 57 by Emperor Guangwu of China’s Han Dynasty to a ruler of a small area of northern Kyushu to demonstrate that the recipient was vested with political authority by China.

Government officials began using hanko on official documents for authentication in the eighth century.

Hanko have been employed by high officials and samurai for most of Japan’s recorded history and were already common among merchants and farmers by the Edo Period (1603-1868). During the middle ages, however, brush-stroke signatures enjoyed a brief popularity among nobles and samurai.

The modern hanko system was codified during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) in the early 1870s, when legislation was passed requiring people to register their hanko and use them on important documents.

This process was a product of the nation’s nascent bureaucracy.

Do people use the same hanko for every document?

No. Basically there are two types of hanko — inexpensive, ready-made ones and those that are custom-made.

Ready-made hanko are used for casual occasions at home or in the workplace, such as when people sign for a parcel or when employees are required to verify expenses.

Customized hanko are saved for more important occasions, including opening bank accounts, obtaining loans from financial institutions or purchasing vehicles.

Ready-made hanko can be inexpensive, and some are even sold in ¥100 shops, while fancier, customized hanko can cost tens of thousands of yen. These can be fashioned from horn, crystal or ivory, although stocks of the latter material have been limited in line with the clampdown on the ivory trade.

Customized hanko are less subject to wear because they are used infrequently and thus retain their identification value, according to Shoichi Nakajima, a board director of the Tokyo Hanko Engravers Cooperative Association, a group of hanko craftsmen and retailers.

The average Japanese possesses four to five personal hanko over a lifetime, he said.

What is a “jitsuin” hanko?

Literally meaning “real hanko,” these stamps are usually customized and registered at local government offices, where individual impressions are kept on record.

Each local government has an ordinance that denotes what kind of material can be used for hanko, their size and other particulars. Rubber hanko are usually not accepted because their imprints change easily, and when hanko are damaged, holders may be asked by local governments to register new jitsuin hanko.

People are required to use jitsuin hanko on important contracts and documents for registration procedures at public offices. Examples include real estate and vehicle transactions and loans by banks or other financial institutions.

Businesses and government offices often request official certificates of authenticity for jitsuin hanko. Businesses may refuse to process agreements using damaged hanko whose imprints do not match registered impressions.

Foreigners in Japan, except those from East Asia, usually do not own hanko. Are they required?

Basically no. An 1899 statute, Meiji 32 Year Law No. 50, states that foreigners can use signatures instead of a seal in situations where laws require Japanese to officially acknowledge a document with a hanko.

Minato Ward, Tokyo, for example, spells out that foreigners can use signatures on its official documents.

According to the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, when foreigners report to government offices on property transactions or the creation of a company in Japan — procedures that legally require Japanese to use jitsuin hanko — they may use a signature but are required to certify it with their home government.

When it comes to opening bank accounts, three megabanks allow foreigners to use signatures if they do not have a hanko. They have systems to check signatures to prevent forgery.

But smaller banks may ask foreigners to use a hanko partly because their employees are not trained to distinguish the possibility of a forged signature, according to a Regional Banks Association of Japan official. Because the opening of a bank account represents a contract between the bank and individual, the 1899 law does not prevent banks from requiring a hanko.

Some experts recommend that foreigners doing businesses on a long-term basis in Japan get a jitsuin hanko to smooth the process.

Why does Japan use the hanko system instead of a signature system?

Legal requirements for using hanko on documents are limited to certain occasions, including executing a will, registering a marriage and childbirth on family registers, and reporting real estate transactions to legal affairs bureaus, according to lawyer Masae Shiina.

In many other instances, individuals are free to choose between a hanko or a signature. In practice, however, hanko are often requested out of custom because Japanese society places great importance on their weight as seals of identification.

The interchangeability of hanko and signatures is backed by law. Article 32 of the Commercial Code states that a hanko accompanying a typed or written personal name can serve as a signature, while Article 228 of the Civil Procedure Code stipulates that a private document is presumed as genuine if it bears a hanko or the signature of the individual or of a proxy.

However, lawyer Shiina said the current hanko system contains inherent problems.

For example, a family member can use another family member’s jitsuin hanko to borrow vast sums from financial institutions without authorization, while an elderly person with senile dementia can be deceived into placing a jitsuin hanko on a fraudulent contract — and such incidents occur with regularity.

How can people prevent counterfeiting?

Kazuyoshi Kono, a hanko and signature analyst, said it is extremely difficult to verify either hanko impressions or written signatures, as digital technology allows precise fabrications of both.

Engraving machines using scanned data can be used to make counterfeit hanko imprints. There are also machines that can reproduce signatures, he said.

Signatures, however, appear harder to forge than hanko imprints. Signatures bear individual characteristics, including angles and stroke pressures, and subtle line changes — characteristics difficult to emulate with a machine. Imprints, meanwhile, vary so much due to such factors as the ink and paper used that it is difficult to isolate unique characteristics.

Nakajima of the Tokyo hanko association said people should be extremely careful about handling hanko. They should avoid lending them to others and leave impressions only when necessary.

Also, it is advisable to keep hanko for bank accounts separate from bankbooks because if both are stolen, money can more easily be drawn from an account — although clerks may request proof that the person using the hanko is indeed the registered owner.


All about Japan: Hanko/Inkan

More than just rubber stamps, hanko–horn, wood or stone seals imprinted with the bearer’s name, like a signature to a Westerner–are indispensable tools for Japanese adults in authorizing a myriad of transactions, from automobile registration, to bank activities to setting up house utilities. Nearly any occasion that would call for a Westerner’s signature would call for an impression of a hanko in Japan.

In Japan, seals in general are referred to as inkan (印鑑) or hanko (判子). Inkan is the most comprehensive term; hanko tends to refer to seals used in less important documents.

The first evidence of writing in Japan is a hanko dating from AD 57, made of solid gold given to the ruler of Nakoku by Emperor Guangwu of Han. At first, only the Emperor and his most trusted vassals held hanko, as they were a symbol of the Emperor’s authority. Noble people began using their own personal hanko after 750, and samurai began using them sometime in the Middle Ages. Samurai were permitted exclusive use of red ink. After modernization began in 1870, hanko finally came into general use throughout Japanese society.

Government offices and corporations usually have inkan specific to their bureau or company, and which follow the general rules outlined for jitsu in with the following exceptions. In size, they are comparatively enormous, measuring 2 to 4 inches (5.1 to 10 cm) across. Their handles are often extremely ornately carved with friezes of mythical beasts or hand-carved haku bun inscriptions that might be quotes from literature, names and dates, or original poetry. Some have been carved with square tunnels from handle to underside, so that a specific person can slide his own inkan into the hollow, thus signing a document with both his own name and his business’s (or bureau’s) name. These seals are usually stored in jitsu in-style boxes under high security except at official ceremonies, at which they are displayed on extremely ornate stands or in their boxes.

For personal use, there are at least four kinds of seals. In order from most formal/official to least, they are: ‘Jitsu in’, ‘Ginko in’, ‘Mitome in’, and ‘Gago in’.

A ‘jitsu in’ (実印) is an officially registered seal. A registered seal is needed to conduct business and other important or legally binding events. A jitsu in is used when purchasing a vehicle, marrying, purchasing land, and so on.

The size, shape, material, decoration, and lettering style of jitsu in are closely regulated by law. For example, in Hiroshima, a jitsu in is expected to be roughly 1⁄2 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm), usually square or (rarely) rectangular but never round, irregular, or oval, and must contain the individual’s full family and given name, without abbreviation. The lettering must be red with a white background (shu bun), with roughly equal width lines used throughout the name. The font must be one of several based on ancient historical lettering styles found in metal, woodcarving, and so on; ancient forms of ideographs are commonplace. A red perimeter must entirely surround the name, and there should be no other decoration on the underside (working surface) of the seal, though the top and sides (handle) of the seal may be decorated in any fashion from completely undecorated to historical animal motifs to dates, names, and inscriptions.

Throughout Japan, rules governing jitsu in design are so stringent and each design so unique that the vast majority of people entrust the creation of their jitsu in to a professional, paying upward of US$20 and more often closer to US$100, and will use it for decades. People desirous of opening a new chapter in their lives—say, following a divorce, death of a spouse, a long streak of bad luck, or a change in career—will often have a new jitsu in made.

Several magazines are published for collectors, hobbyists, and professionals.

The material is usually a high quality hard stone, and far less frequently deerhorn, soapstone, or jade. It’s sometimes carved by machine. When it’s carved by hand, an in tou (“seal blade”), a mirror, and a small specialized wooden vice are used. An in tou is a flat-bladed pencil-sized chisel, usually round or octagonal in cross-section and sometimes wrapped in string to give the handle a non-slip surface. The in tou is held vertically in one hand, with the point projecting from one’s fist on the side opposite one’s thumb. New, modern in tou range in price from less than US$1 to US$100.

The jitsu in is always kept in a very secure place such as a bank vault or hidden carefully in one’s home. They’re usually stored in thumb-sized rectangular boxes made of cardboard covered with heavily embroidered green fabric outside and red silk or red velvet inside, held closed by a white plastic or deerhorn splinter tied to the lid and passed through a fabric loop attached to the lower half of the box. Because of the superficial resemblance to coffins, they’re often called “coffins” in Japanese by enthusiasts and hanko boutiques. The paste is usually stored separately.

A ‘ginko in’ (銀行印) is used specifically for banking; ginko means “bank”. A person’s savings account passbook contains an original impression of the ginko in alongside a bank employee’s seal. Rules for the size and design vary somewhat from bank to bank; generally, they contain a Japanese person’s full name; a Westerner may be permitted to use a full family name with or without an abbreviated given name, such as “Smith”, “Bill Smith”, “W Smith” or “Wm Smith” in place of “William Smith”. The lettering can be red or white, in any font, and with artistic decoration.
A foreigner’s ginko in displayed in a typical Japanese savings account passbook. Note the boundary showing maximum size (1.0 by 1.5 centimetres (0.39 × 0.59 in)) and extreme design freedom in font and decoration.
Most people have them custom-made by professionals or make their own by hand, since mass-produced ginko in would offer no security. They are wood or stone and carried about in a variety of thumb-shaped and -sized cases resembling cloth purses or plastic pencil cases. They are usually hidden carefully in the owner’s home.

Banks always provide stamp pads or ink paste, in addition to dry cleansing tissues. The banks also provide small plastic scrubbing surfaces similar to small patches of red artificial grass. These are attached to counters and used to scrub the accumulated ink paste from the working surface of customers’ seals.

A ‘mitome-in’ (認印) is a moderately formal seal typically used for signing for postal deliveries, signing utility bill payments, signing internal company memos, confirming receipt of internal company mail, and other low-security everyday functions.

Mitome in are commonly stored in low-security, high-utility places such as office desk drawers and in the anteroom (genkan) of a residence.

A mitome in’s form is governed by far fewer customs than jitsu in and ginko in. However, mitome in adhere to a handful of strongly observed customs. The size is the attribute most strongly governed by social custom. It is usually the size of an American penny or smaller. A male’s is usually slightly larger than a female’s, and a junior employee’s is always smaller than his bosses’ and his senior co-workers’, in keeping with office social hierarchy. The mitome in always has the person’s family name, and usually does not have the person’s given name (shita no namae). They are often round or oval, but square ones are not uncommon, and rectangular ones are not unheard-of. They are always geometric figures. They can have red lettering on a blank field (shu bun) or the opposite (haku bun). Borderlines around their edges are optional.

Plastic mitome in in popular Japanese names can be obtained from stationery stores for less than US$1, though ones made from inexpensive stone are also very popular. Inexpensive prefabricated seals are called ‘sanmonban’ (三文判). Prefabricated rubber stamps are unacceptable for business purposes.

Mitome in and lesser seals are usually stored in inexpensive plastic cases, sometimes with small supplies of red paste or a stamp pad included.

Most Japanese also have a far less formal seal used to sign personal letters or initial changes in documents; this is referred to by the also broadly generic term hanko. They often display only a single hiragana, kanji ideograph, or katakana character carved in it, They are as often round or oval as they are square. They vary in size from 0.5-to-1.5-centimetre wide (0.20 to 0.59 in); women’s tend to be small.

‘Gago in’ (雅号印) are used by graphic artists to both decorate and sign their work. The practice goes back several hundred years. The signatures are frequently pen names or nicknames; the decorations are usually favorite slogans or other extremely short phrases. A gago in can be any size, design, or shape. Irregular naturally occurring outlines and handles, as though a river stone were cut in two, are commonplace. The material may be anything, though in modern times soft stone is the most common and metal is rare.
A modern gago in spelling out “Mitsuko” (光子), a popular woman’s given name in Japan. Note the uniform line widths and extremely archaic forms of the ideographs for “fire/light/bright” (Mitsu, 光) and “child” (Ko, 子), read right-to-left.
Traditionally, inkan and hanko are engraved on the end of a finger-length stick of stone, wood, bone, or ivory, with a diameter between 25 and 75 millimetres (0.98 and 3.0 in). Their carving is a form of calligraphic art. Foreign names may be carved in rōmaji, katakana, hiragana, or kanji. Inkan for standard Japanese names may be purchased prefabricated.

Almost every stationery store, five-and-dime store, large book store, and department store carries small do-it-yourself kits for making hanko. These include instructions, hiragana fonts written forward and in mirror-writing (as they’d appear on the working surface of a seal), a slim in tou chisel, two or three grades of sandpaper, slim marker pen (to draw the design on the stone), and one to three mottled, inexpensive, soft square green finger-size stones.

In modern Japan, most people have several inkan.

A certificate of authenticity is required for any hanko used in a significant business transaction. Registration and certification of an inkan may be obtained in a local municipal office (e.g. city hall). There, a person receives a “certificate of seal impression” known as inkan tōroku shōmei-sho .

The increasing ease with which modern technology allows hanko fraud is beginning to cause some concern that the present system will not be able to survive.

Signatures are not used for most transactions, but in some cases, such as signing a cell phone contract, they may be used, sometimes in addition to a stamp from a mitome-in. For these transactions, a jitsu-in is too official, while a mitome-in alone is insufficient, and thus signatures are used.

source: wikipedia


Forgery/Security Concerns

See Japan Times article, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004 “Security concerns jeopardize future of age-old tradition of ‘hanko’ seals”

Staff writer
Masao Sekine, a 77-year-old doctor in Fukushima Prefecture, keeps his personal seals locked up in a safe-deposit box at the bank.
Japanese seals, known as “hanko,” come in different shapes and sizes, and are used in place of signatures on official documents.
“I don’t take them out,” Sekine said, refusing to say how many he has. “It’s just too dangerous.”

Japanese use seals, or “hanko,” carved on tiny blocks of ivory or wood, in lieu of signing their names on official documents. Since the eighth century, people have put their seals on loans, divorce applications and government decrees.

Banks — pillars of conservatism in Japan — have long required customers to use seals when opening accounts.

But they are departing from tradition. Major banks now allow depositors to open foreign-currency accounts using their signatures instead of seals. They are — albeit slowly — also weeding out the practice of including the imprint of depositors’ seals on passbooks.

The banks are taking these steps partly to reduce the risk of forgery; nowadays the victims are not just the seal owners but the banks themselves, which are increasingly held accountable for failing to spot forgeries and becoming unwitting parties to a crime by handing over victims’ assets to strangers.

In early December, for instance, the Osaka District Court ordered Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi to compensate a victim of identity theft to the tune of 2.5 million yen.

With police reporting a 50 percent jump since 1997 in crimes involving seals and account books, roughly 60 percent of banks have now banned seal imprints in account books.

According to the Japanese Bankers Association, there were 1,294 reported cases in fiscal 2002 in which people were robbed of their deposits — worth some 4.1 billion yen — after their stamps or passbooks containing copies of their stamp marks were stolen.

The total value of the losses was up 250 percent from the previous year. From last April to September, there were 427 reported cases, representing losses worth 1.4 billion yen.

Pressure to cut overhead is also spurring some banks to stop issuing passbooks altogether, like foreign banks operating here. It’s a big change from a decade ago, when banks vied for depositors by featuring characters like Hello Kitty, Doraemon and Snoopy on bankbooks.

The Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group gives depositors from the age of 20 to 39 the option of opening accounts without passbooks.

The theory is that relatively younger depositors are comfortable checking the status of their deposits via the Internet or cell phone, and are happy not to have to go to the bank to print out transactions on paper passbooks.

The bank meanwhile can cut back on the cost of tellers and concentrate resources on providing mortgages or advising customers on inheritance issues.

“Cost cuts are the major objective, not cutting down on crime,” said Takeshi Noma, a lawyer representing victims of identity theft. “Banks have never indicated a willingness to prevent identity theft before.”

It is still up to depositors to protect themselves, he said. Using a signature is one way, he said.

But are signatures really safer?

While seals can be stolen and forgeries made via sample imprints scanned into computers, Japanese tellers have inadequate experience telling signatures apart, one senior Bank of Japan official warned.

“Culturally, Japanese are trained from childhood to sign their names in the exact same way as their teachers,” he said. “They’re just not trained.”

Nor are signatures necessarily more convenient, said Sanae Hara, an online ombudsman for consumer issues in finance and a lecturer at Saitama University’s economics department.

Signatures are scanned, like hanko, into banks’ databases, and a customer may be asked to provide multiple samples until a signature closely matches the sample on the database, she said.

On the other hand, seals registered with local governments for important legal documents provide convenience and safety.

“Your handwriting changes: but a seal gives you the same unique imprint forever,” said Akiko Kihara, who sells seals at her store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

The identity of a registered seal can be double-checked by demanding a certificate that goes with the seal, she said.

In Japan, unofficial seals are used for bank accounts, special deliveries and other situations instead of signing on the dotted line.

“Remember, it’s people who are going to have the last word about whether your seal or signature is authentic,” Hara said. “The system is only as safe as the people hired by banks to protect your money.”

Japan’s Seal of Approval
The ancient hanko has long substituted for a signature in the nation. And though critics say it is vulnerable to fraud, the stamp shows no sign of disappearing.

TOKYO — It can cost as much as $10,000 and as little as 80 cents. It’s essential for emperors and paupers, those buying a $20-million house or a $20 newspaper subscription. It’s a 5,000-year-old technology with deep security flaws but even deeper cultural roots.

It’s the hanko, Japan’s version of the signature.

“I don’t exist in this society without my hanko,” said Kyuyoh Ishikawa, a calligrapher and director of Kyoto Seika University’s Institute for Writing and Civilizations. “Take them away and real society becomes impossible in Japan.”

The hanko, Japan’s counterpart to the Chinese chop, is a cylinder carved on one end with characters that, when stamped in ink, leave the owner’s imprint. Most Japanese have several. Men’s are generally bigger than women’s, and bosses’ larger than those wielded by their subordinates.

The most secure forms of hanko are reserved for banking or real estate deals, while off-the-shelf varieties are used for such everyday tasks as taking delivery of a package or registering a bicycle. It’s one of the first things people look for on any document to make sure everything is official, authentic and trouble-free.

The hanko has a long, distinguished history. Then again, so does fraud. Nobleman Fukumaro Oishi was banished from society in AD 887 for making a counterfeit hanko. He was lucky. Many who followed in his footsteps were crucified.

Hanko technology hasn’t changed a great deal since its origin in ancient Mesopotamia and China. It’s still essentially a version of the hieroglyphics once carved in stone.

But the tools available to thieves have changed. Scanners, computer graphics and cutting-edge printing technology make duplicating imprints easier than ever.

“Forgery cases have increased a great deal over the past 10 years,” said Susumu Kobayashi, president of the Kobayashi Document Analysis Institute, who does work for the police. “Japan should really replace the hanko system.”

This is sacrilege to traditionalists, who view the stamp as the embodiment of all things Japanese. “We started our history with hanko; it’s in our DNA,” said Mari Minamoto, a hanko expert and soothsayer. “Criticizing hanko is like criticizing the tea ceremony.”

The stamp shows little sign of disappearing. It even has its own national day. And although some expect the hanko to evolve as credit cards and Internet banking grow more popular, the humble stamp remains an integral part of culture, superstitions, financial life, human relations and history.

Japan’s first evidence of the written word was found on a solid-gold hanko dating to AD 57. Hanko stamps initially were held only by the emperor or, as an extension of his authority, his most trusted vassals. As an old expression has it, your hanko is your most valuable possession–after your life.

Over the centuries, hanko gradually succumbed to the trickle-down theory. Nobles started acquiring their own after 750. Samurai gained access to the club during the Middle Ages, along with an exclusive right to use red ink. The great unwashed masses followed after modernization in 1870.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur used a hanko after World War II to pass down his edicts during the U.S. occupation. Novelist Ogai Mori evoked the stamps’ timelessness in his haiku: “Passing spring. I just spend my time stamping hanko.”


This Mainichi shimbun story cited by Watashi  to Tokyo ” Two people withdrew money from a bank with identical seals. Guess what?  They both lost $4000 or so. In the court sentence for this case, the guy will be reimbursed in full, because the seal of the copy hanko was different. The edge was thicker. As a proffessional, the bank should have found the difference when they saw the paper. The women will not get any money, because in her case the copy seal looked very close and it was hard to tell the difference…”


History of the Hanko

Hanko(insho; inban) is an official or private seal engraved with the name of the emperor, shogun to individuals who endorse the document is genuine. Japanese customs no legal documents are valid unless the seal is chopped next to the hand written signatures. The oldest and impressive golden seal was found in 1784 in Kyushu, southern island, this precious chop is believed to present to the ruler of Japan in A.D.0057 by Chinese (Han Dynasty) emperor.

Though the Imperial Seal was discontinued after World War II, today individuals must register their real seal (jitsuin) nearby local government offices which keep the an impression on their record. Legal document such as borrowing money and writing a letter of attorney,this jitsuin chop really work on the paper. Though we have ATM machine, Japanese draw checks with their name plus hanko, for big money. Signatures are not good enough.

On an adulthood day young people make their first chop. The receipt is invalid unless the valid stamp is impressed. Identification card or legal document, such as borrowing big money, or to buy a house, this chop is a must. Many religious people collect either 33 in Western Japan, or 88 pilgrimage temples on Shikoku Island. After you receive these beautiful handwritten calligraphy of the name of the Buddhist temple by a vermilion stamp.

Several styles used:

Hakusyu tensyo(stylish and dignified); Hakusyukointai(Japan’s traditional style);; Hakushureisyo(created in Qin period, China; Hakushukaisyo(standard square writing); Hakushugyosyo(semi-cursive writing).

Source: e-kanji website.


Living in Japan Tip

What is a Hanko stamp (Inkan)?

In Japan, Hanko (or called Inkan) or a Japanese seal, is often required as proof of verification of a transaction or as an official acknowledgement of a situation or event, instead of using a hand-written signature. If you are going to live and work for a long period of time in Japan, you should acquire a Hanko.

Types of Hanko

There are 3 types of Hanko for personal use. All of them are the same type of hanko, but are used in different applications and situations. The Hanko you might only need, in most cases, is called Ginko-In.

Mitome-in is a regular Hanko stamp used for confirmation or acknowledgement. In most cases, you can substitute your signature for it.

Used in formal applications or registration, like opening a bank account. Usage of Ginko-In should be restricted to formal situations. Generally, avoid casual usage and for security reasons, keep it in a safe place.

Jitsu-in is registered seal used in the making of legal agreements, for example, buying a house, setting up a company, etc. To use Jitsu-In, you must register the seal at your local government office.

How to get a Hanko
If you go to a Hanko shop (Hankoya) nearby, you can order a Hanko with your name. If you like to create a Hanko with your name in Hiragana or Katakana, you should bring along your name on paper and present it to the shop representative. The cost is between 1000 Yen and 3000 Yen, this web site shows a good example of converting your name to Hiragana or Katakana and buying a Hanko.

For shorter stays in Japan, you do not need to create a Hanko just for one year or that a shorter stay, you may use ready-made Hanko stamps with a Japanese family name. They are inexpensive and you can even buy hem at a 100 Yen shop. It is difficult, but try finding a Japanese name that sounds like your name, if it sounds too different, it will be refused.

Source: Living in Japan Tip | Hanko stamp (Inkan) article under Creative Commons License: Attribution


Read also about the implications and history of Japanese ivory industry (behind hanko use, among others) @ Differences between Asian and African ivory

A Reiki master’s Seal


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