• Hanko is a necessary tool when you live in Japan
  • You can buy hanko at hundred-yen shops and convenience stores
  • You can also make hanko

Hanko is a must have in Japan

When you live in Japan, a seal is something you must have. A seal is called 判子 (hanko) or 印鑑 (inkan). Unlike in Western countries, you stamp your hanko instead of or in addition to signing your signiture. You need a hanko in many situations, including when you open a bank account, receive packages, and submit a marriage certificate.

Different hanko types to know

In Japan, there are several different kinds of hanko and they are used in different situations. Here are the three main hanko types you will need when you live in Japan:

  • 実印 (jitsu-in): Registered seal. This hanko is the most important hanko, which is used for legal-related matters, such as real estate contracts, purchasing of a car, and receiving inheritance. Jitsu-in needs to be registered at a local city or town office before used. Just bring your identification and the hanko that you want to be a jitsu-in. The process will only take several minutes. 
  • 認印 (nin-in): General seal. This type of hanko is used in a wide range of situations. You can stamp this hanko at work or when you receive packages. One of my elementary school teachers used to stamp his nin-in to show that he checked my homework. Nin-in is not allowed to use for legal matters.
  • 銀行印 (ginkou-in): Bank seal. This is used for bank-related matters, including when you open a bank account and withdraw a large amount of money. You can use the same hanko for both jitsu-in and ginkou-in, but it is encouraged to use a different hanko for each for security reasons. 

How to get a hanko

If you go to a local hanko shop, you can get a hanko with your name. There are even some convenience stores and hundred-yen shops shops that sell hanko. However, the hanko you can get at convenience stores and hundred-yen shops is nin-in, so if you want other types of hanko, you should go to a hanko shop. The price of hanko depends on what kind of shape and material you choose. Usually wooden or circular ones are cheaper and ceramic ones or square ones costs more. 

But most foreign people will not find hanko with their names at those shops because the shops only have hanko with typical Japanese names. Then, where can they get hanko with their names? One of the very easy and quick places to get your own hanko is Don Quijote. Some of Don Quijote stores have a hanko vending machine, and you can make your own hanko in just 5 minutes. You can choose a font for your name. The price of hanko costs from a few hundred yen to a few thousand yen depending on what kind of material you use for your hanko and hanko case.

Another place you can make hanko is in the famous tourist spot, Kamakura. 鎌倉はんこ (kamakura hanko) is a hanko factory where you can design your name to make your own hanko. It will be fun to give your name kanji and add designs like flowers or stars around your kanji name. The price is from ¥1,980, excluding  material fees. A reservation is needed before arrival. There are more places where you can get your own hanko in Japan. Here are a couple of examples:

Hanko is your life-long partner in Japan!

Since you will need a hanko in many occasions in Japan, having your own hanko makes your life in Japan much easier and less stressful. So, go get your hanko as soon as you get to Japan if you can!