Recently, the Resona Bank and Saitama Resona Bank announced that by the end of March 2019, customers will be able to open deposit accounts and perform other banking functions without the use of their “hanko”.
But what is a “hanko”?
A hanko is a seal used in Japan, which is the same as your personal signature. Every Japanese adult has one, and uses it on official documents like bank accounts, contracts, and government paperwork.
Sometimes you will also hear the term “inkan” when discussing seals. The difference is simple. A hanko is the stamp itself, and an inkan is the mark that the hanko leaves on the piece of paper.
There are two categories of seals: jitsu-in or “registered seals” and mitome-in or “non-registered seals”. Registered seals are the ones you use for those official documents I mentioned before, while the non-registered seals are used more commonly for things like signing for a package delivery.
In order to obtain a registered seal, you need to head down to your local City Hall and register your seal with the authorities there. They will issue a certificate that provides an image of your registered seal, which proves that you are registered. Japanese people are extremely careful with these seals, and may not even what to show you their registered seal—so be careful when asking.
So how do you get one?
Well, most of my Japanese friends actually received their official seals as high school graduation gifts from their families. This is sort of a “welcome to adulthood” gift, but not as exciting as it sounds, haha.
But, if you are not Japanese—and weren’t lucky enough to receive a seal as a gift—don’t worry because you can just go out and buy one! There are many shops you can buy a hanko at, from 100 yen shops to more expensive “fancy” shops where they sell for hundreds of dollars. But finding a shop is the easy part, because once inside you will see just how many options you actually have.
You can choose the materials, the color, the size, the shape, accessories, and much more. It can be a bit much your first time, which is why most people head for the cheapest and simplest ones first.
Anyway, though Resona Bank may not be requiring hanko, I do not think that they will be going anywhere. Hanko are an important part of Japanese culture, so you should make sure to get one if you live or work in Japan.
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