What is Hanko? -Japanese “must have” item

Hanko for foreigners


Hanko (判子) seals with names are widely used for contracts with companies, schools, apartments, gyms, etc., opening bank accounts, certificates (marriage, driver’s license, etc.), resumes, and notices. It is also used to confirm corrections in the event of typographical errors on official documents. Therefore, if you live in Japan, a Hanko is a necessity. A signature cannot be substituted for a Hanko in most cases. In some cases a signature can be substituted for a foreigner, but it is much easier and quicker to use an actual Hanko.
In addition to Hanko, you may have heard of seal certificates and family crest certificates. These, according to the dictionary, refer to the impression made on a piece of paper by a seal, whereas a Hanko is the actual seal used to create an Inkan 印鑑 or Inei 印影. Today, however, many Japanese also refer to a Hanko as an Inkan.


Personal Hanko include Ginkōin, used for opening and closing accounts at banks, Jitsuin, used for making contracts and issuing official certificates, Mitomein or Sanmonban are used for just an acknowledgement. These four are the main Hanko used by individuals. Those who run a company may need to make a Hanko for their company called Kaishain (会社印).

A Ginkōin (銀行印) seal is used when a bank account is opened and the bank keeps the seal and asks the customer to bring the seal when withdrawing large sums of money (such as 500,000 yen or more at a time, which varies from bank to bank) or when closing the account.  The ideal size of a Ginkōin is 12-15 mm in diameter, but there are no specific rules.

A Jitsuin (実印) refers to a seal that is registered at the city hall or ward office. When you register a Hanko, you will receive a certificate showing that the seal is yours. This procedure is required when you buy a house, car, or other large item. When you sign a contract, you must submit the certificate together with your seal.  The ideal size of a registered seal is 13 to 18 mm in diameter, but there are no specific rules.

Mitomein (認印) is the most common Hanko. Mitomein means “seal of approval. It is a Hanko that can be used in a variety of situations: as proof that you have seen a document at work, as proof that you have received a registered letter or parcel at home, on a resume for job hunting, on an application for membership at a fitness gym, and so on. The ideal size of Mitomain is 10.5-13 mm in diameter, but there are no specific regulations.

Sanmonban (三文判) is a ready-made, inexpensive Hanko; you can find the Hanko with popular surnames at 100-yen stores. Sanbunban are an inexpensive alternative to Mitomein. There is also a stamp-type Hanko, Shachihata, which is made of rubber and has built-in ink. This is the name of the product, but because of its popularity, we call self-inking Hanko by this name. This is a fairly convenient alternative to a signature.

Sanmon-hanko is actually an alternative, cheaper, and more convenient version of Mitomain. So, we have prepared three different types of hanko for different uses of personal Hanko. Now, you may be wondering if it is really necessary to prepare three different types of Hanko.  Actually, there is no need.

If you make a custom-made Hanko, you can use it like a Mitomein. And you can use the same Hanko when you open a bank account. Also, when you buy a house or a car (or when you need a personal seal), you can register it at the city hall or ward office and get a “seal registration certificate” called Inkan-shoumei (印鑑証明) to use as your personal seal. In other words, there is only one Hanko that can be used for all three purposes. Each Hanko has its own ideal size, but there is no set size. However, please remember, a Shachihata or a Hanko with built-in ink (made of rubber) cannot be registered as a Jitsuin or used as Ginkōin due to deterioration over time.

Of course, it is possible to create three different hanko for different purposes. This is a traditional method and is also safe in terms of security. By separating hanko for different purposes, the possibility of forgery is reduced. Thus, choosing 1 hanko for 3 purposes or 3 hanko for 3 purposes is up to you.


For foreigners, it is recommended to make a Mitomein seal first. Then, if necessary (e.g., when buying a house), you can register it as a Jitsuin (registered seal) or make another one exclusively for registered seals.

Japanese people usually make Mitomein with their own family name. For a Jitsuin, some people make one with their first name or full name. As long as it is your own name, there is no particular rule as to which one to use.

In the case of foreigners, they are free to use any category of name (family name, first name or both full name). However, using a middle name is not recommended due to the limited space on the Hanko. When making a personal seal, some municipalities do not allow the use of middle names.

There are three writing systems in Japanese. They are Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.


Any character can be used as a Hanko for a foreigner. While it is common for foreign nationals’ names to be written in Katakana, Hanko can be made in Japanese characters or romaji (English characters). However, when making a Jitsuin, some cities, towns, and villages do not allow registration of English letters or hiragana, so if you know where you live, you need to check them in advance.

Each Kanji character has its own meaning. Names of kanji used for foreigners are chosen based on how they are read (pronunced). Usually, there are two types of readings for Kanji: on-yomi and kun-yomi. In other words, one Kanji can have multiple readings, so that one name can be expressed by more than one Kanji. For example, the Kanji 秋 -autumn can be read either as “shu” or “aki,” meaning “fall. The kanji Matthew can be expressed in a variety of ways, such as 真修, 馬周, 増収, 魔秋… and so on, and can be expressed in many other ways. Names with these kanji characters sound like real master, horse circuit, increasing income, magic fall respectively.

For character fonts, you can choose from a variety of fonts such as Insōtai, reishotai, kointai, kaishotai, insootai, tenshotai, and so on. Below are examples of English, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji fonts for the name Matthew.


Living in Japan, there are many such hanko shops like this.
They sell everything from ready-made Sanmonban Hanko to custom-made hanko. If you are a foreigner, you need to ask for a custom-made one. Also, if you want a Japanese Hanko, you need to know how your name is written in Japanese.

On this site, you can order Hanko from this site below or https://japanese-name-stamp.com. We will translate your name into Japanese (Hiragana, Katakana or Kanji) and send it to you.
If you wish to order a kanji Hanko, we will give you several options from which you can choose. We also show you the suggested Kanji name for you. Each kanji has its own meaning, so it is best to know in advance what the kanji will look like.


Select the Hanko you wish to order. Click on the product photo, select the font and case color, and enter the name you would like engraved on the stamp.
The ordered Hanko will be delivered to the address you specify. (Shipping fee: Overseas: *depends on the destination* but from US$15~, Domestic (Japan): US$5).  It depends on the delivery address, but it takes about 2 weeks for overseas delivery.  For details, please click here.  Payment can be made by PayPal only.

English name Hanko
Japanese name Hanko Katakana
Hiragana Hanko
Japanese name Hanko Kanji


self-inking English


self-inking KatakanaFont Katakana Shachihata
self-inking Kanji

If you have any inquiry or questions, feel free to send us message from here. 

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