WHAT IS HANKO?
Hanko 判子 is a name stamp/seal which is used in Japan widely for tasks such as making contracts (e.g. joining a new company, school, apartment, gym etc.), opening bank accounts, getting certificates (marriage, driver’s license, etc. ), writing resumes and even used as an acknowledgment of notifications. We even use Hanko to confirm corrections when we make spelling mistakes on official documents. Therefore, Hanko is a must-have item if you’re living in Japan! Signatures cannot be used in place of Hanko in most cases. Signatures are occasionally allowed as a makeshift “Hanko” for non-Japanese but it is much easier and faster to use an actual Hanko.
In addition to Hanko, you may have heard of Inkan 印鑑 or Inei 印影. These are the seal impressions made on a paper by Hanko, while Hanko is the physical stamp used to make Inkan/Inei, according to the dictionary. But nowadays even many Japanese call Inkan referring to Hanko (physical object).
WHAT TYPES OF HANKO ARE AVAILABLE?
There are a few types of Hanko for individual use; Ginkōin (used at the bank, when opening and closing an account and for withdrawals), Jitsuin (means “real Hanko”, and is used when making contracts or getting official certificates), Mitomein (Hanko for acknowledgement) and Sanmonban (“cheap” Hanko, this is also used for acknowledgement). These four are the major Hanko for individual use. If you run a business, you may need to make a Kaishain (会社印), meaning company Hanko.
Ginkōin (銀行印）is used when you open a bank account, and the bank keeps its Inkan and they require you to bring your Hanko when you withdraw big money (like more than 500,000 yen at once, but it depends on bank) or close the bank account.. The ideal Ginkōin size is around 12-15mm in a diameter, but there is no regulation.
Jitsuin (実印) is a Hanko which is registered at city hall or a ward office. If you register your Hanko, you can get a certificate showing that your Inkan is yours. This process is necessary when you buy big items such as house or car. When making contract purchasing these items, you also need to submit the certificate along with the Inkan. The ideal Jitsuin size is around 13-18mm in a diameter, but there is no regulation.
Mitomein (認印) is the most general Hanko. Mitomein means to mark acknowledgement. You can use this Hanko as evidence that you’ve seen documents in the office, or receiving registered mail or parcels at home, for your resume of job application, making an application for joining a fitness gym, etc. The ideal Mitomein size is 10.5-13mm in a diameter, but there is no regulation.
Sanmonban (三文判) is a ready-made cheap Hanko. This type of Hanko is sold at 100-yen shops as well for popular Japanese surnames. Sanmonban is a cheap, alternative version of Mitomein. Also, there is rubber made stamp-type Hanko with built in ink, called Shachihata. This is actually a product name, but since it’s so popular we use this name to refer to self-inking Hanko. This is kind of the Sanmonban and is quite handy Hanko in lieu of a signature.
Sanmonban is actually an alternative cheap or convenient version of Mitomein. So in terms of usage of Individual Hanko, we have three types. Now you might wonder if we really need to have 3 different types of Hanko? Actually, it is not necessary.
If you create an order-made Hanko, you can use it as Mitomein. And when you need to open a bank account, you can use the same Hanko. Also, when you need to buy a house or car (or any occasion in which you need Jitsuin), then you need to register your Hanko at city hall or a ward office to get “inkan-shomei (印鑑証明)”, the Hanko certificate, and your Hanko becomes Jitsuin. So actually you can have only one Hanko for all three purposes. Although each Hanko has its ideal size range, there is no regulation about the size. But please remember that Shachihata or built-in-ink type (rubber made) Hanko cannot be registered as Jitsuin because the material will deteriorated over time.
Of course, you can create three different Hanko for each purpose. This is the traditional way and is safer in terms of security. By separating Hanko for each purpose, we can minimize the chance of forgery. So it is totally up to you whether you create just one Hanko for all three purposes, or make three different Hanko for each purpose.
I AM NOT JAPANESE – HOW DO I MAKE HANKO?
For a foreigner, making Mitomein first is recommended. Then, if necessary (for situations like buying a house, etc.) you can make it into Jitsuin by registering it, or create another one for solely the Jitsuin purpose.
Japanese usually make Mitomein with their surname. For Jitsuin, some people make it with their first name or full name too. There is no regulation on which name to use, as long as it’s your name.
As for foreigner, it’s your choice which part of your name (family name, first name or both full name) to use for any type of Hanko. But it’s not ideal to use your middle name as space in Hanko is quite limited. If you make Jitsuin, some local governments may not accept using middle name for Hanko registration.
Japanese has three writing systems: Hiragana, Ktatakana and Kanji.
HOW DO I CHOOSE MY NAME – HIRANAGA, KATAKANA, OR KANJI?
As a foreigner, you have options to make Hanko with any type of character you like. Customarily we describe foreigners’ names with Katakana though, for Hanko, you can use any Japanese character, or even Romaji (English letters) is fine. However, if you plan to make Jitsuin, some city/ward offices may not accept English or Hiragana letter registration so you need to check first if you already know where you will live.
As for Kanji, each character has meaning. Kanji names used for non-Japanese are selected by the pronunciation of their name. Normally Kanji has two types of reading, On-yomi and Kun-yomi, or Chinese way of reading and Japanese way of reading. So one name could be expressed with several Kanji patterns because one Kanji could have more than one reading. For example, the Kanji 秋 can be read “shuu” or “aki” and its meaning is autumn. Kanji for Matthew can be expressed as 真修, 馬周, 増収, 魔秋… and many other ways. Each of these Kanji name sounds like: real master, horse circuit, increasing income, magic fall respectively.
As for letter font, you can choose different fonts, like Insōtai, reishotai, kointai, kaishotai, insootai, tenshotai, etc. Below are the font examples the name Matthew in English, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji.
WHERE CAN I GET HANKO?
If you’re living in Japan, you can find many Hanko shops in Japan like this.
They sell both ready-made Sanmonban Hanko and other order made Hanko. As a foreigner, you need to ask for order made and also need to know how your name is written in Japanese if you want the Hanko in Japanese.
You can order Hanko here in this site below. We’ll translate your name into Japanese (Hiragana, Katakana or Kanji) and deliver it to you.
If you request Hanko in Kanji, we’ll give some suggestions and you can pick one. As each Kanji letter has meaning in it, you may want to know how your name looks in Kanji in advance.
HANKO YOU CAN ORDER HERE
Please pick Hanko you want to order. Click the product photo and choose font and case color, and write your desired name to be engraved in Hanko.
We deliver your order-made Hanko to your address. (Overseas: US$10, Domestic (within Japan): $5) Delivery will takes about two weeks for outside of Japan although it may vary depending on the destination. Please find the delivery detail here. We accept payment with Credit cards and PayPal.