A Guide to Using Your Japanese Hanko
All Hanko Are Not Equal
The hanko is still an intrinsic part of the fabric of Japanese daily life. The jitsuin is an official registered seal there are strict specifications with regards to size, design and materials. Cheap rubber stamps are a no-no, as they deteriorate easily. The owner of this stamp is the only person allowed to use it — you cannot hand it over to your spouse or children to use in your place. The ginkoin, as its name implies, is a registered seal for bank dealings. Like the jitsuin, there are strict design and material specifications that muse be followed. The mitomein is where you can get a little creative. You’re allowed to own as many as you like, but getting a high-quality hanko that lasts a long time means you can hand it down to your children or grandchildren. By creating a custom design hanko you add a personal touch to your seals, and it’s an excellent method of self-expression in a society where such outlets can be few and far between.
Using Your Hanko — The Perfect Seal
If you already have a hanko, are you sure you know how to use it correctly? Everyone who has used a hanko will have some point encountered some or all the following issues: stamping your name upside down/at an angle, smudging the seal, getting an uneven print, or even double stamping. Despite its simplicity, using a hanko is an art and takes practice. Here are some quick tips to help ease the
Taking Care of Your Hanko
It’s important to treat your hanko with care. Consider registered hanko as important as your passport in terms of personal identification and store them safely, ideally under lock and key. Basic advice for hanko care:
・Keep your hanko in its case when not in use to prevent any external damage
・Keep it in a cool and dry place, out of direct sunlight
・After use, make sure to wipe any residual ink off
・Store your jitsuin hanko separately from the hanko registration card or any contracts you have used it with
・Store your ginkoin hanko in a different place from your bank book
If your hanko is stolen, report it to the police. Also, make sure to cancel it at your local ward or city office. If you’ve lost it, you must still cancel it. In this case, bring a new one along when you go to the ward office so you can register it as soon as you canceled the old one. You must then go to any bank you have used your registered inkan with to register it there, too. If you have signed any longstanding agreements — like a mortgage — you may need to redo the paperwork with the new hanko.
Signed and Sealed
The hanko’s role in Japan still holds utmost importance as contracts signed and stamped with a hanko provide the greatest levels of proof. For example, documents affirmed with both a handwritten signature in addition to a hanko stamp hold the highest credence in the court of law (followed by handwritten signature alone, digital signature plus hanko, and digital signature alone in terms of importance). As such, use your hanko wisely when applying your stamp to legal documents such as repayments, joint guarantor contracts, etc. Always check the content of a contract carefully and make sure you agree to all the terms before pressing your hanko stamp. The hanko makes for a great souvenir, but also plays an indelible role in Japan society.