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Goin’ Japanesque!

Types of Japanese Hanko Stamp: Why You Should Guard Your Seal with Your Life!

In Japan a person’s seal is used in the most important milestones in the individual’s life such as the birth certificate, school admissions, career, foundation of a company, marriage, death, etc. Outside of Japan, it is perhaps more common to place a personal signature on a document. In Japan though, the seal is considered more important than one’s signature. If you do not have a personal seal, you cannot open a bank account and in some cases would not be able to complete your own resume when applying for a job. Find the information on the types of seals that are necessary for your life in Japan.


The Types of Seals

1. Jitsu-In (Original Seal)

The jitsu-in refers to the seal that has been registered and accepted at the office where you are registered as a resident. It is the most important seal out of all the seals you will own. It is legally and socially binding and it is associated with rights and responsibilities. Any official documents, loan of money, contracts, car registration… etc will require the jitsu-in. If you intend to find an apartment in Japan, you would need this seal for a lease agreement. It would be a good idea to have a jitsu-in ready in time. Any time you stamp your seal on these documents, you would need to carefully review the fine print. Because this seal holds such an important meaning, most people choose to make this seal out of premium materials such as expensive wood or animal horn, but the quality of the seal is not an indicator of it is the jitsu-in or not. The jitsu-in only refers to the seal that has been registered at the proper governmental office.

2. Ginko-In (Bank Seal)

The ginko-in is a seal that is used for opening the bank account. Thus, this is another seal that carries importance. If you use one particular seal to open a bank account and misplace that seal, it can be a huge hassle as you would not be able to access the funds in your own account. Also, if someone else gets a hold of your seal, then it could mean that that person could have access to your funds. This would be a seal you really want to look after.

3. Mitome-In (Approval Seal)

The Mitome-In is a seal that has not been registered. It can be used for standard documents. For example, if you receive a package at your home, then you can use this stamp to indicate that you have received the package.


Shuniku (Vermillion Ink)

Shuniku is the vermillion ink pad that is used when using the seal. The shuniku uses a special mineral derived ingredient. The difference of this shuniku from the red ink used in a regular ink pad is that it is resistant over time and less subject to fading from exposure to sunlight. It can keep stamped impression for a long period of time.


Shachihata (Self-Inking Stamp)

The shachihata is a stamp that does not require a stamp pad and there is ink that is loaded in the body of the stamp. This type of self-inking stamp is often called “Shachihata” for one of the brands in Japan that offer this type of stamp. This is convenient and easy to use so it is suitable for carrying around or using as a mitome-in. However, it is unsuitable for the jitsu-in or the ginko-in. This is because the shachihata type of stamp is mass produced and could easily be replicated especially for people who have the same surname. The ink is also not the durable shuniku, so it is likely you would be denied use at the bank or if your seal is required on a contract.


The Term “Inkan”

A tidbit I want to share…The seal is often called “inkan” in Japan, but this is actually incorrect. Inkan indicates the impression of the seal that is pressed on the paper. The actual stamp is called “insho”. Even many people among Japanese use this term incorrectly, and those who use these terms correctly may actually be rare.


So, if you’re thinking of living in Japan, you should first get 3 inkan…oops, I should say, insho ready. It is a seal that represents yourself so get creative in choosing the design of the impression, the material used on the body of the seal and any accessories such as cases. And do be careful with its safekeeping!

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About the author

Kimi is a Japanese living in Tokyo. She has spent half her life living overseas in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Her hobbies are traveling, eating, drinking and beautifying. She enjoys yoga and has a daily goal of running 6.5 km to offset her love of beer and junk food.

View all articles by Kimi