Seals and Seal Registration

Information about Japanese personal name stamps – what they are and when to use them...

Most Japanese people have a personal seal or name stamp (inkan/hanko) which is used in place of a hand-written signature. Foreigners living in Japan for more than a few months may also find it useful to acquire an inkan. Seals for common Japanese family names can be bought easily at a Hanko shop (Hankoya). Seals for non-Japanese family names need to be custom-made.

There are three types of inkan which are used in the following situations:

Jitsu-in

This is the most formal type of inkan, used for contracts or legal documents. A jitsu-in must be officially registered at a local government office. Foreigners over the age of 15 can register a jitsu-in. Proof of identification such as a resident card/alien registration card is required.

Note: There are regulations on the size and materials used for jitsu-in. This varies from city to city and should be researched carefully beforehand.

For some legal transactions a personal seal registration certificate may also be required as proof that the seal is genuine. These are also available from the local government office where the seal was registered. A fee is payable for these certificates.

Ginko-in

This type of inkan is often used to open a bank account in Japan. Ginko-in are usually kept separate from other inkan and in a safe place for security reasons.

Mitome-in

Used in place of a signature in a variety of day-to-day transactions. A signature is also accepted in place of a mitome-in in these situations.