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The Creed of the Hanko title

This is my Hanko. There are many like it, but this one is MINE. My Hanko is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My Hanko without me is useless. Without my Hanko, I am useless. I must stamp my Hanko true.

What am I babbling about? Full Metal Hanko? To the unfamiliar I am referring to the all important Japanese stamp or personal seal which is important for closing deals in the realms of banking, getting a car, special delivery mail, and cable TV to name a few. Regardless of being Japanese or a foreigner, you're going to need one of these little guys. Like most things in life, you can pay anything from a little to a small fortune for a Hanko, with deciding factors being material, shape and size affecting the price.

At this point you may be griping "why should this stamp have so much more integrity than my handwritten signature?" Well, you're not in Kansas anymore, and rules are rules. Don't despair as there are times that the ol' John Hancock will suffice.

What have we learned so far? Not much, so let's press on. If you're a foreigner you will need to have your name translated and made into a kanji stamp before you can start seriously wheeling and dealing about town. There are about 10,000 kanji characters, although none of those will be a direct translation for the likes of Colin Farquar... that would be cool though, wouldn't it? The most common method of translation is to select a character which phonetically represent the parts in your name. The only problem is, the darn things can have many different readings. Therefore, Japanese people may be uncertain in the correct pronunciation of your name at first glance (so good luck with that Colin!).

Another approach is to have the literal meaning of your name represented on your Hanko. For example the name "Woodburn" could use the Kanji's meaning "wood" and "burn". This approach is quite preferable when your name has a highly positive meaning. Personally, I think in my case where my last name literally means Valley of the Horse would make a better Dreamworks animation title than a personal seal.

For matters higher in the beaurocratic scheme of things such as purchasing and registering a car you are expected to have your hanko registered at your nearest ward office (city hall). They'll make an impression of your stamp for filing, and you'll receive an official registration certificate, an Inkan Shomeisho.
Registration costs approximately ¥650, and about ¥350 for each copy of the registration certificate.

If there are any do's and don'ts to pay attention to, its not recommended to include letters such as PhD after your name on your seal. In Japan, this display is perceived as a sign of insecurity (as a foreigner doing this, it would be excused as ignorance). The belief is, qualified and accomplished people, do not need to flaunt their achievements, it is the role of other people to make this judgment.

Finally, if you really couldn't be bothered getting a custom Hanko, you could wander into a ¥100 yen store, grab a Hanko that's says Yamazaki despite the fact that you're a guy named Patrick and STAMP IT TO THE MAN! the way, Patrick, if you're reading this, you'll be pleased to read that I didn't change your name for the sake of a story.

That's is for Hanko's, now if you haven't already, go and watch Japan to the Max!