What is Inkan?
Inkan (Japanese:印鑑) is a small cylindrical object made of wood, with one’s family name in stylized letters carved into the surface of one end. One sticks the carved surface into a shuniku (Japanese:朱肉), the red ink pad, then stamp it to documents such as contracts and legal transactions. In Europe and North America, signing on contracts and legal transactions are regarded as important, but in Japan, the inkan is in place of that.
2 types of Inkan
Photo Credit: hankonokimura.com
There are two types of inkan, jitsu-in (Japanese:実印), the true seal and mitome-in (Japanese:認印), the recognition seal and most Japanese have both. Jitsu-in is most important because it is proof for public documents, confirming a person’s intentions and identity, and is recorded at city hall.
Photo Credit: case.hankoya.com
Inkan is often written in a very ancient kanji characters that is difficult to read. We usually use inkan-ire (Japanese:印鑑入れ) to keep the inkan. It has a symbolic meaning and we usually pay close attention to its size and made out of high-quality material. When you register your jitsu-in at the city hall, you will receive a registration certificate, inkan-touroku-shou (Japanese:印鑑登録証).
Also, the companies have their own seals, called shaban (Japanese:社判). Shaban is a small quadrilateral object made of wood, with the companies’ name or the address in stylized letters and is the true seal of the company. For everyday business, mitome-in is used, but it is an unregistered name seal. We usually use sammon-ban (Japanese:三文判) which is a recognition seal, available in stationary stores.
Tokyo Souvenir Lab
Photo Credit: fineseal.net
Are there any places where foreigners can make their own inkan? Yes, Tokyo Souvenir Lab provides this service and you can order it on the internet. They make your personal seal converting a your name into kanji, hiragana, katakana and alphabet providing a certificate which explains the meaning of the name. They will look from about 50,000 kanji to match a reading of your name and choose a kanji depending on its meaning. Let’s make your personal inkan for remembrance of trip to Japan! It is also a wonderful souvenir for your friends and families.
Price: Hanko Sets JPY 4,500 per each seal
Website: Tokyo Souvenir Lab