What is a Personal seal? All kinds of personal seals and how to get them.
Lots of your best moments in Japan, no doubt, will need a signature: the leasing contract for your new apartment, the contract after finally receiving a job offer, opening your Japanese bank account and so on.
To sign these and many other day-to-day documents you won’t need a pen! You will need a personal seal (or stamp). The “inkan”, or “hanko”, is the most used method to give a signature and validate documents in Japan. Those personal seals are usually made from wood or plastic and they have the same legal meaning as handwritten signatures in other countries; Inkans are engraved with the name of the person or organization applying them. They are normally wet on red pads of ink: to sign a document you just need to press your Inkan onto the paper.
Q: All Inkans are the same?
A: There are three main kinds of Inkan
- 1.Jitsu-In; this word stands for “actual seal”, you will need it to sign important documents like those necessary to set up a company or to buy a house. The jitsu-in needs to be registered at your city office, so you can get the “inkan card”. With the card you can print legal standing seal certifications.
- 2.Ginko-In; this seal is just for financial transactions. You don’t need to register it at the city hall, you just register it with your bank. It is used for example to sign up for a loan.
In case of foreigner customers, banks don’t require any ginko-in when opening a bank account.
- 3.Mitome-In; this seal is the regular one for your daily life. You don’t have to register it anywhere. It stands for a normal signature, but his weight is not as important as the Jitsu-in or the Ginko-in’s one. Recently is becoming quite common that a simple signature can substitute a mitome-in.
A mitome-in is the one you will be more likely to use.
Q: Where can I get my inkan?
A: If you are a student, you can ask your school to help you through the procedure (many schools usually provide this service, of course limited to mitome-in).
If you are not a student, the process itself, starting from your order is not difficult but if you don’t speak Japanese, you may need a friend to help you deal with your order. You can choose to go directly to a Hanko-ya (a store specialized in inkan) or you can place your order online. For a mitome-in the process in quite fast too, in few days after you order you will be able to receive your inkan.
Your inkan must be engraved with at least part of your name. You can use your full name, just your first name or just your surname too. You can’t register an inkan with characters or letters that aren’t part of your name. It is possible to use both alphabet as well as katakana. Long name and surname? Keep in mind that the diameter of the inkan must be between 8 mm and 25 mm.
Any further questions about personal stamps? Do you want to know more about Japanese bureaucratic culture?
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