What is a hanko/ inkan?
A hanko is a personal seal engraved with an individual or company’s name which is used in place of a signature when signing documents. You may have noticed that “hanko” is also referred to as an “inkan.” Hanko refers to the physical object that is pressed to paper, where an inkan is a personalized mark left on the paper. So, the two words are interchangeable.
Where can I get a hanko?
You can order a hanko in person at a hankoya はんこ屋. In the bigger cities of Hokkaido such as Sapporo, Asahikawa, and Obihiro you can visit Hankoyasan 21 (はんこ屋さん21) to get your personalised seal. For those in more rural areas of Hokkaido search ‘hanko’, ‘inkan’, ‘判子’ or ‘印鑑’ in google maps to find your nearest store.
You are also able to order hanko online from a number of retailers. However, not all offer worldwide shipping. So, if you’re ordering your seal before you arrive in Japan keep that in mind.
Here are a few places you can buy hanko online:
https://www.hankoya.com/ in Japanese
If you are intending to use your inkan for legal purposes you will need your name to match that on your passport. Keep in mind that the space for your name is relatively small, so consider playing it safe by using only your family name.
How much does a hanko cost?
Hanko can be as cheap as 100 yen, for those who have common Kanji names. Daiso and other 100 yen shops usually stock popular Japanese names, so if you fall into that category you are in luck. For the majority of foreigners who do not have that option, customised hanko range between 1000 – 10,000 yen depending on the materials used. Unfortunately, one of the ‘finer’ materials used for hanko was, and questionably still is, ivory. Despite many countries banning both international and domestic trade of ivory, Japan’s domestic market continues with its claim of being ‘controlled’. Unless you intend to support the ivory market, please be aware of what your hanko is made from. Hankoya.com assures that all their products are ivory free.
How do I register my hanko?
Unless you are intending your hanko to be a souvenir, you need to register your seal at your municipal office or city hall as a jitsu-in (real inkan). Your inkan must resemble the name on your passport in English, katakana or hiragana, and must not be made of rubber or other materials easily bent.
What to bring:
- ID – Drivers licence, passport, residence card.
- Registration fee (Amounts vary depending on the town. Fees usually range from 0 – 200 yen.)
Congratulations, you can now do legal business in Japan.