Photo:Kevin Jaako on Flickr

Inkan or Hanko : The Japanese Personal Seal

Every Japanese possess a personal seal called Inkan or Hanko. While in western nations and in almost any other part of the world, the hand signature done by the individual is used for applications and other documents, in Japan, the Hanko plays the role of the signatures. Every important document in an office, bank, etc. needs a personal stamp usually done in red ink. In all the application forms of Japan, we could see a space in round or square shape with the symbol asking for a personal seal.


Sometimes, along with the signature, this seal is used by the Japanese people. Since the Japanese names are combinations of the first name or the persons original name and the second name (surname) or the family name, usually the family name is inscribed on the Hanko. The common family names like Tanaka, Mori, Yamada, Ishihara, Uemura etc. have built-in Hanko available in the 100 yen shops or other shops. Since Inkans are used for document making, it is easy to reproduce them for making false documents and cheatings. To avoid such problems, each family have a separate specially made Inkan which is used in very important documents and are difficult to reproduce.

Foreigners residing in Japan also need to have their personal seal in offices or other requirements. This could be made in Katakana or Romaji and can inscribe the name as per our wish.


Hanko makers

There are shops making Hankos as per the need of the person. The Hanko-ya also have the common family names already with them so that it can be selected from the collection of Hankos they already have. For rare names and special Hankos, we could give special order for making them. The Hanko shops makes seals of various colours and appearances. Cute colourful Hankos for the youngsters are available in large numbers.

Online Hanko shops

A lot of online Inkan shops are also available. In such cases, we have to input our name only and select the type of Hanko needed. Prices of the Inkan depend upon the model selected and the number of characters in the name to be carved on the Inkan. It usually ranges from 2000 yen to some ten thousands of yen.

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Cute anime Hanko

Itaindo is a Hanko maker of Saitama prefecture who is making Inkan with anime characters carved on them. Various Manga characters are carved on these cute Inkans that could be used for signing purposes, but couldn’t be used for legal needs.

Hanko vending machines

Some places have vending machines to get your Hankos done in some minutes once you enter the name and do the instructions available at the machine. It is cheap and can make the Inkan immediately hen you need it.


Photo: 忠銘 楊 on Flickr

Types of Hanko

For acknowledgment purposes, the Hanko named Mitome-In is used instead of the signature. While receiving a postal document or a courier this type of Inkan could be used for signing. The Hanko used for official needs like in a bank, City office etc. is called the Ginko-In. This should be kept safely and secretly as it is the important type o personal seals used for all official purposes. For the Inkan that is to be used for legal purposes, we have to register the personal seal with the city office and acquire a certificate of registration. This type is called the Jitsu-In.

Inkan will be carved in wooden or stone rode of specific length, usually some 6cm. The radius depends on the number of characters in the name. It also has specifications. There are some standard radii also. This type of seals has to dip in red ink before every use.

Another type of Hanko that is used for other purposes like for daily acknowledgement or signing of documents or invoices in offices or companies is called the Kaku-In. We can use a Hanko with the seal residing inside a small rod. Once we press the seal on paper, the inscription will come down and the seal could be made. This type of Hanko have ink inside it and hence it could be used many number of times without refilling. It helps in saving time and effort while doing works in offices. There will be legal Hankos for the high officials of a company that are to be used in important documents.

Hanko cases


Not only is the Hanko, the case used to store the Hanko also important. People used to keep their Hankos safely in cute cases. Many varieties of Hanko cases are available in the Hankoya as well as in other shops. We could make as selection of the cheapest Inkan cases from the 100 yen shops too.

Most Japanese have atleast two Inkans. One is the Jitsuin type which is the legal type and the Mitome-in type of Inkan used for acknowledgement purposes and other daily use. Being in Japan, everyone staying for more than a year in Japan should have to make their on Inkan for signing documents and other purposes.

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