Rather than finishing off official forms and documents by signing their name with a pen, Japanese people use a stamp, known as a hanko or inkan.

A hanko is designed and engraved for an individual person, then registered with the local authorities. According to the Japanese, this makes it much harder to forge than a signature. For important contracts, such as ones to rent an apartment, you will be required to have an hanko.

Despite their importance, the rules about the design of the seal aren't very strict. It must contain some elements of your actual name, but apart from that you’re pretty free to have any kind of hanko you want. Enter the Pokemon hanko. These stamps combine your name with the Pokemon design of your choice, for a personalised stamp of unquestionable coolness and questionable professionalism.

Last year, these official Pokemon stamps went on sale with designs allowing you to choose one of the original 151 Pokemon. Then recently the line-up expanded to include the next generation. This release included one example of ‘unown’, a mysterious Pokemon which takes the form of a letter or punctuation mark. But after being inundated with requests for more on social media, the company has announced that 26 variations of the Unown will be available for hanko-ification.

The 26 designs include Unown that resemble every letter of the latin alphabet, allowing you to choose based on your name or just whichever looks coolest.

The seals are recognised by many major banks and postal services (full list available online), so you really can use them in your every day life in Japan.

They also offer self-inking cases that you can buy alongside your Pokemon hanko, making them easy to carry around wherever you go just like a real Pocket Monster!

If one of these take your fancy, check out the Rakuten page to get your hands on your own Unown.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.