Hanko Stamp: All Japanese have a Hanko and it is used instead of a signature

Hanko is a small cylindrical object, 1~2 cm in diameter, and 5~6 cm in length, with one's name in stylized letters carved into the surface of one end. It is usually made of wood, but various materials such as stone・ synthetic resin, and metal are used.

One sticks the carved surface into a red ink pad, then presses it on paper.

In Europe and North America, a person's signature is regarded as important, but in Japan, the Hanko is in place of the signature.

There are three main types of "Hanko" depending on the application.


Jitu-in(officially registered seal)

The registered ”Jituin” is the most important Hanko and is accompanied by legal and social rights and obligations.
It is used for notarial act creation, money and other loan certificates, contracts, real estate transactions, inheritance of heritage, and car registration when becoming the founder of a corporation.

To use it as a registered seal, you need to register your seal at the municipal office or office where you are registered as a resident. Only then will Hanko have legal effect as a 「Jituin」.

Only one person is allowed. The same Hanko cannot be registered by two people.


Regulation of the shape of the imprint

A stamp that becomes circular when pressed is common.
However, stamps with missing contours or no contours are not allowed.
Because what is missing cannot leave an accurate imprint.
Also, if there is no contour, the force balance is poor and there is a high risk that it will not be pressed cleanly or that it will be forged.

There is also regulation for the characters engraved on "Hanko", and it is necessary to engrave the name registered in the family register.

For example, full name, surname only, the first name only, etc.



Ginko-in(Bank registered seal)

The Hanko registered when opening an account at a bank is called a "Bank registered seal".

Since it is used for financial purposes such as opening a deposit account and creating checks and bills, it must be handled with the same care as Jituin.

If you register "Jituin" and "Ginkouin" together with the same Hanko, if you are lost or stolen, you must not only notify the financial institution of the change but also abolish the registration of the registered seal or change the seal. It will take a lot of time and effort.



"Mitomein" is unless you have a rare surname, you can find off-the-shelf products and they are very cheap to get.

Mitomein is the most commonly used "Hankol" at home and at work and is mainly used as a substitute for signatures such as receive a postal package. It is often used in daily life, but it may have legal effects in unexpected places.

Mitomein does not have official proof, but it is proof that the contents of the documents and contracts have been "approved" and then stamped, so be sure to understand the contents before stamping.


Jituin and Ginkouin should not be used as mitomein due to the risk of replication.



Hanko, which is widely used as a mitomein at work and at home, is "Syachihata".

Shachihata is an ink-penetrating type Hanko that can be stamped about 3000 times without a stamp pad.

It's a very convenient "Syachihata", but you can't register it as Jituin or Ginkouin.
Because the stamp surface of Syachihata is made of rubber, the stamp imprint may be deformed.

Another reason is that Syachihata is a mass-produced seal, so if the surname is the same and the typeface is the same, the seals will all have the same shape.
Therefore, it is not possible to register due to the risk of crime.

The name "Syachihata" is the name of a company that manufactures and sells ink-penetrating stamps.





Company seal (Campany Jitu-in)

The representative seal (daihyosha-in) is a stamp that a corporation registers when registering the establishment of a company with the Legal Affairs Bureau.

The seal registered with the Legal Affairs Bureau will be the seal (= company seal) of a legally binding company.

Representative seal (company seal): Hanko delivering the imprint to the Legal Affairs Bureau

If you register your seal with the Legal Affairs Bureau, you can get a seal certificate.
For important contracts and legal procedures that require proof of the existence of the company, a "seal stamp with a representative seal" and a "seal certificate" is required.


When do you use it?

The representative seal (company seal) is necessary to show the decision making of the company and is the most important stamp in the company.

For example, use it in the following scenes.

  • When there is a change in the representative director.
  • When issuing a stock certificate.
  • When a corporation sells real estate.
  • When collateralizing real estate.
  • When concluding a contract to guarantee solidarity.
  • When acquiring a company.
  • When making other important contracts such as formal texts.

Tenkoku(Designer mark)

Calligraphers may sign their work by stamping their original stamp. The design is free and playful and doesn't even have to be a name.
Even if you make a mistake in the characters or the frame is missing when making a stamp, it will be a personality.


Material of Hanko

"Regular seal", "bank seal", "company seal", etc. are not commercially available, so ask a stamp shop to create them.

There are many types of Hanko materials, and each has its own characteristics.

Wood such as boxwood and birch is inexpensive but has excellent durability.
Black buffalo horns can also be made at a reasonable price while having beautiful colors and stamping properties.

Unfortunately, you can find a vendor that handles ivory as a material for stamps.
It's also true that some people still want it.

Titanium is known as the royal road for Hanko materials. It has excellent heat resistance, wear resistance, erosion resistance, and strength.
Also, since it can be washed with water, the ink residue can be washed off.


If you want to make a Hanko...

Hanko shop in Tokyo


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I am a Japanese living in Mie prefecture. I work in a supermarket. You will often find information about Japan from anime and manga. However, in reality, it is slightly different. I want to convey the true Japanese culture and lifestyle.