Japanese Hanko stamps / seals

Q: Hey Richard! I would first of all like to thank you for your Genki Japan website; it has been very helpful in my beginner learning; phrases and such. My dream is to become a translator as languages are my life; I also am doing my GCSE German. I wanted to ask about the Japanese “Hanko” stamp that they use to sign documents with. If I were to live in Japan, which I hope to one day, would I need one? And if so, would my name be written in katakana on one of them: ジョシュア? I would be very happy if you were able to answer. Thanks! じゃね。- Josh

A: Hi Josh,

Thanks for the nice words about the Genki Japan website

To answer your question, yes you will need a hanko stamp / seal.  They are used instead of signatures and you’ll need one for anything official that you would usually sign back home e.g. rent agreements, salary, banks etc. etc.   They are really easy to have made, you pop into a hanko shop and they ask how much you want to spend and they make one up in a couple of days.

Usually it would have your surname on it, rather than your first name, and yes they are usually in katakana for non Japanese.  Most people just have a small one wood one they carry around with them (you can even buy them in 100 yen stores for common Japanese names!) although if you are into big business you can have your hanko registered for extra protection e.g. if someone stole your unregistered hanko they could hypothetically marry you off to someone without you knowing!

When you set up a company you also have to have a special set of hanko made.  These cost a fortune but look absolutely gorgeous, I’m always impressed with the ones we got made!

P.S.  also have a look at http://GenkiGerman.com

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