Inkan and Hanko - Signature with Japanese Stamp and Stamp

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Inkan [印鑑] or Hanko [判子] are stamps (or seals) used by the Japanese, which have the same value as signatures. In this article, we will see some curiosities about these signature stamps and Japanese stamps.

The Inkan or Hanko they are used in situations such as requesting documents at the city hall, opening a bank account, correspondence, among others. Both large corporations, businesses and ordinary people and families can own an Inkan.

In the same way that Brazilians need to register their signatures in notary offices in order to recognize the signature. Inkans must be registered and certified by the government at the prefecture before being used as a signature.

What does Inkan and Hanko mean?

inkan [印鑑] is a personal signature in stamp form. This signature also receives a document called inkan shomeisho [印鑑証明書], a card that proves that such stamp or seal is your signature.

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These stamps are usually made of stone or wood in a cylindrical shape, containing oriental characters on their upper base, which can be both kanji and drawings (usually used in arts), and are typically used with red ink.

Some signature stamps can be made of elephant tusks, marble and bamboo, some can cost up to millions of yen. The Hanko cheap versions, usually made of plastic, are considered.

Hanko - Cheap stamp

While Inkan means stamp or seal, there is also the Hanko  [判子] which means seal. The difference between Inkan and Hanko is that Hanko is usually simpler, some are even made of rubber to put in a pen.

Otherwise, they are usually cheaper, and can be found with a ready-made name, even in 100 円 (Hyakuen). People use it to sign smaller contracts and accept deliveries. And it can be categorized as a mitome-in.

Both can refer to the same thing, but most of the time hanko it is not used so officially. I believe that the difference is the same between stamp and stamp, although a stamp in Brazil means something different. Stamp houses are called hankoya.

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Other names for the Japanese Seal

In addition to the names inkan and hanko, there are other terms used to refer to Japanese name stamps and seals. See some of these names below and their meanings:

  • insho [印章] - Legal Name;
  • shirushi [印] - It means brand; emblem; symbol;
  • han [判] - It means seal; stamp; signature;
  • shirushiban [印鑑] - stamp; seal;

As mentioned in the list above, there is a legally correct form, used in public agencies. It gets such a legal name for being passed on shuniku [朱肉] to be printed as if it were a stamp on paper or document.

Other names on the list are just abbreviations and ideograms that have a certain meaning, which can rarely be used in certain situations.

Sutanpu - Stamp prints

Although not related to an article, we can mention the word sutanpu [スタンプ] used to refer to train station stamps. Those beautiful ones that we also find in tourist spots that serve as a visit record.

When you go to Japan, carry a blank notebook to stamp all the places you have visited. If you want to know more about these stamps, read our sutanpu article, train station stamps.

Inkan e hanko - carimbo ou selo japonês que serve como assinatura

Origin of Inkan and Hanko

The Inkan appeared 5,000 years ago in the Mesopotamian region, with engravings engraved on the side. Thus, the material was rolled over the clay surface to obtain the stamp designs.

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Only the sages of the time had the inkan, which was hung around the neck with a rope, being carried as a necessary accessory for everyday life. Each possessed the inkan with peculiar engravings, made with stones of value.

Subsequently, the inkan spread to the world. In the east, through China, it arrived in Japan. In the west, it crossed Greece, Egypt, Rome and arrived in Europe, where the custom of using inkan has not been maintained throughout history. Unfortunately, this custom did not reach Brazil.

Formerly in Japan, inkan was used only by the emperor and his most trusted agents, as a way of certifying official documents with the emperor's authority symbol.

From the Heian and Kamakura eras, inkanse became common among the population and in the Meiji Period, under the law, inkant became an object of common use and it is necessary to be registered by the prefecture of each city (inkan shoumeisho) [印鑑証明書] .

Inkan e hanko - carimbo ou selo japonês que serve como assinatura

Types of Inkan and Hanko

Inkan and hanko are usually separated according to their use. See the functions of these stamps below:

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Mitome-in [認印] - what is  used for daily tasks at home and at the office, such as signing for delivering packages, letters and documents. A Hanko can be used. (We will talk soon…)

Ginko-in [銀行印] - This seal is used to open a bank account. To withdraw a large amount of money or close your account. You can use other types of inkan to open your bank account, but a lot of people tend to separate inkan for security reasons.

Jitsuin [実印] - The stamp registered at the City Hall. This is the most important stamp as it is used in all transactions that require official documents, such as buying and selling property, buying and selling cars, contracts, among others.

Inkan e hanko - carimbo ou selo japonês que serve como assinatura

Questions about Inkan and Hanko

Below we will answer some questions about these Japanese signature stamps:

Who lives in Japan needs an Inkan / Hanko?

An Inkan is not needed to survive. It is possible to do many things, even to create bank accounts in some places without a stamp. If someone asks you for the stamp, and you don't have it, suffice it to say, they usually allow a simple signature.

If you live in Japan, it costs nothing to have a Stamp. It will save you time and avoid problems.

What if someone steals my inkan and uses it?

I wouldn't really worry about that at all, because if a document is important enough to need the stamp. They will ask for identity, address, etc. Not to mention that Japan is a super safe country.

Inkan and Hanko are a big part of Japanese culture and have probably been a custom for hundreds, if not thousands of years. If you are in Japan, do like the Japanese, and get your Inkan or Hanko which is cheaper.

What is Shuniku and Nurishuniku? 

Shuniku [朱肉] is thick red ink used for signature stamps, but ink pads can also refer. Shuniku is a mixture of refined castor oil, pine resin, white wax, washi (Japanese paper) and other materials that make the color red. 

The cushions shuniku used to stamp stamps, originally were black and came from China, but over time red was used as the standard. The color red is used because it is somewhat auspicious, just like torii gates of the temples.

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Nurishuniku it is a premium version of the paint and cushion, it usually comes in a circular case and has a more pasty consistency, made of non-toxic natural material. It has a more intense and elegant color and shine, it doesn't lose its color over time either.

Despite being much more visible, its disadvantage is that it takes time to dry. Usually the stamp pads can come in a case used to store the inkan or it can also be an external cushion.

Inkan e hanko – assinatura com selo e carimbo japonês

How to make your Inkan?

First of all you should find a site that works with Inkan. Choose the material like wood, marble, ivory, iron and many others. And select the size of your Inkan, below we have a list of common sizes:

Jitsu-inFemale: 13.5mm or 15mm
Male: 16.5mm or 18mm
Ginko-inFemale: 12 mm or 13.5 mm
Male: 13.5mm or 15mm
Mitome-in10.5mm normal
Special 12.0mm

Decide what you want in inkan

You can have up to 6 characters in your inkan. You can put your name, name, family name or organization. You can choose to use kanji, katakana and hiragana. Some locations are even possible to customize.

Who can register?

Anyone over the age of 15 who is a resident of the city where the prefecture is located. However, you can only register a seal.

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Inkan e hanko - carimbo ou selo japonês que serve como assinatura

What do you need to register the seal?

1. Personal identification, such as an Alien Registration Card or driver's license.

2. Inkan - the personal seal.

3. An application form - inkan-Touroku-shinseisho 印鑑登録申請書 - available at the local ward office or an office in the city, or by download from the prefecture website.

4. Registration is free, but the certificate of authenticity for the seal (印鑑登録証明書 inkan toroku Shomei-sho) costs 300 yen. This certificate of authenticity is necessary for any significant business transaction, such as buying a car, or buying real estate.

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