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
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
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
and dealing about town. There are about 10,000
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!).
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
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!..by
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!