What it isEdit
An inkan/hanko is a seal or stamp with your name on it. These stamps can be used in place of signatures on official documents. It is possible to get inkans with your name in alphabet, katakana, hiragana, or kanji. Most people with Western names get inkans with katakana, but hiragana or kanji characters are fine too.
NOTE! The terms hanko and inkan are interchangeable.
In Tokyo, almost all businesses accept foreign residents' signatures instead of inkan. As such many JETs hardly use their stamp. However, inkan can be used in the following cases:
- Signing in for work every day
- Opening a bank account
- Setting up automatic bill payments (for utilities) from your bank account
- Signing for package deliveries
- Having a unique souvenir of your time in Japan
Where to BuyEdit
Public School JETs will be given a form during Extended Orientation to order your stamp. This will be processed and you will receive your stamp before the end of orientation.
Private School JETs may either have an inkan provided by their school OR be required to obtain an inkan by themselves. If this is the case, you can buy inkans at local shops, some department stores, and on the internet.
There are several local stores selling specially made inkans. These stores usually have signs reading はんこ and all you have to do is go in and place an order. This requires either a fairly capable Japanese speaking level or an adventurous spirit. The duration it takes for it to get ready depends on the shop and the complexity of the inkan you order.. It may take less than fifteen minutes or several days.
Department stores such as Tokyu Hands also have places to purchase inkans. Some Don Quijote stores also carry inkan vending machines that allow you to create an inkan almost instantaneously. If you have a common name (Watanabe, Saito etc) it is possible to find a cheap inkan at 100 yen stores. There are also a number of websites from which you can order a hanko. Companies such as hankoya.com are good for ordering cheap hankos.
Public school JETs who elect to use the BoE's service will pay ¥1,000.
Private school JETs may find that their COs order one after you arrive. Be prepared to pay the cost back to your school, though there have been cases where JETs have not been expected to pay for them.
For JETs buying by themselves, costs vary. If you’re lucky enough to have a really common Japanese name, you can buy small inkans at the 100 yen store. If not, the kind of inkan you want can drastically vary the cost. If you want something cheap and simple you can easily get an inkan for as low as ¥1,000 – ¥2,000.
If you want an inkan made of a high quality wood or luxury material (jade, marble, ivory etc), you can expect to pay upwards of ¥10,000 – ¥30,000. This will purely be a luxury purchase however, as the quality of your inkan does not matter beyond aesthetic preference.