Although foreigners living in Japan can use their signature in most situations they'll encounter, there are few situations where having a hanko seal can come in handy. For example, if you'd like to open an account in some minor banks in branches located in more rural areas of the country, hanko may be mandatory. Also, hanko are still required in some formal situations where proving your identity is required, which may include things like renting an apartment, signing a work contract or getting married.

However, just because you may not absolutely need a hanko doesn't mean you can't get one.

With the "Dual Hanko" digital hanko service now offered by Bunbukudō Inbō Co., Ltd., you can get both a physical hanko and a digital hanko design which you can use in various ways.

Dual Hanko designs

Let's take a look at the different kinds of hanko you can have made:

Round type, semi-cursive script

As you can see, you can choose to either have your Japanese name displayed in katakana (the syllabary mainly used for foreign names and foreign loan words) or in kanji. If you don't have a kanji name, you can have one made for you as an ateji 当て字, a kanji equivalent of your name. In either case, your original name is displayed at the bottom. Here's an example for the name "Sara":

Block type, old seal script

Round type, old seal script

Block type, semi-cursive script

Kanji explanations

If you're wondering how they come up with an ateji for your name, they've thought of all the possibilities:

Ways to use your hanko

Now that you have your hanko, you could just use it the way Japanese people do to provide proof of identification when signing for a delivery at the door of your apartment, doing a transaction at the bank, or just stamping a document at work.

But Bunbukudō Inbō, who created this service in response to the fact that "hanko are popular with foreigners," imagine that foreigners will enjoy using their hanko in the following ways:

Stamping letters

It doesn't matter that the recipient of your letter doesn't speak Japanese. After all, it's cool to have a hanko and show it off! So Gerry White, go ahead and stamp that hanko on your letter to Mr. and Mrs. Brown. And hey, Jose, go ahead and stamp that digital hanko on your e-mail to your friend Bill!


And if you really want to show the world that you have a cool hanko, you can even take your hanko design and make a T-shirt out of it*

* They don't sell T-shirts, it would be something which you'd make yourself

For all the details and more information on how you can order yours, visit their website here. Hanko cost 2,750 JPY for round type and 3,300 JPY for block types.

By - Ben K.