About Hanko Styles

Tensho-tai 篆書体 (Seal Script)

tenshotai-verttenshotai-horzThis seal script is one of the oldest ones that came from China. It originated during the period of the Qin dynasty under the order by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China around two thousand years ago.

A modified version of Tensho-tai called Shouten became the base of kanji (the modern Japanese writing system using Chinese ideograms, as opposed to hiragana and katakana, the phonetic scripts used alongside modern kanji), while Tensho-tai became the base design of seal impressions.

Tensho-tai derives from pictographs, symbols created to illustrate their meaning. It gives seal impressions a deep, solemn, distinctive and refined quality.

People see Tensho-tai as deformed or modified kanji, but in reality it is the original kanji imported to Japan during the Qin dynasty. Tensho-tai is the one sealed on Japanese yen bills printed by the Bank of Japan, and is used on Japanese passport’s seal impression by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Because of its distinct visual impact, Tensho-tai is the most popular style used by Japanese individuals and corporations for their seal impressions. More than 90% of Japanese corporate seals use this style, according to our shop’s records. Also, most ginko-in (bank seals) for individuals use Tensho-tai.

Insou-tai 印相体

insotai-vertinsotai-horzThis style originated in Japan in the early Showa period, around the late 1920’s.

It is an evolved version of Tensho-tai and sometimes called Kaiun Kisshou Inkou Happo Tensho-tai (Tensho-tai inviting good luck, lucky seal face for all the eight directions).

It is safer in terms of protection against forgeries by its designed style of deforming Tensho-tai, giving it rounder shapes with several contact points between the characters and outline.

This style is designed to lay out characters from the center, emanating out to all the eight directions, representing growth and good luck.

This style makes imitation too difficult for all but the most determined criminals to counterfeit. Therefore, a lot of Japanese individuals and corporations use this style for their official seals. In particular, more than 90% of jitsu-in for Japanese individuals use Inso-tai according to our shop records.

Koin-tai 古印体

kointai-vertkointai-horzThis style was also created in Japan sometime between 7th and 8th centuries.

Koin-tai derives from Reisho-tai yet succeeding Yamato Koin (Japanese old seal) tradition. This style has unique accent of lines of characters and balance of stroke’s ending touch. Its bold seal impression is easy to read giving friendly impression.

Koin-tai is originated by ancient casted seal’s rust.

Its ink haunts and stroke’s ending edges are said to regenerate the rust of casted seal impression of this style.

Since this style came from Japan’s original characters, it is so popular in Japan’s hanko community and the most popular hanko style for mitomein for individuals according to our shop sales record.

Gyosho-tai 行書体 (Running Script)

gyoshotai-vertgyoshotai-horzThis is a style that deformed Kaisho-tai.

It represents gracefulness of brush writings and streamlined beauty.

This style is popular for those who like calligraphy and brush writing.

This style was created in China. Sosho-tai is a little too difficult to read, while Kaisho-tai requires more time to write. Gyosho-tai, therefore, was created to be easier to read than Sosho-tai and easier to write than Kaisho-tai.

This style tends to clearly divide “like it” people and “don’t like it” people.

And the difference may be depending on the type of the kanji of their names, because some kanji might become illegible in Gyosho-tai.


Reisho-tai 隷書体 (Clerical Script)

This style was created in the Qin era.

It is a simplified style of Tensho-tai and intended for shorthand.

Reisho-tai is a well-balanced and beautiful style.

This style was developed to be written on bamboo writing strips or strips of wood before papers did not exist.

In this style, a kanji character tends to be wider.

Its end of a stroke and upward turn of vertical stroke are typical features.

It is easy to read, yet so elegant and therefore, so popular as the style for New Year’s cards printing like Koin-tai.

This style is also used for thanks-letters and stone monuments, and widely accepted by not only individuals but also businesses.
Reisho-tai, however, is very idiosyncratic and therefore, not recommendable for jitsuin or mitomein for either individuals or businesses.

Sosho-tai 草書体 (Cursive Script)

ginkoin-yoko-soushotaiginkoin-tate-soushotaijitsuin-soushotaiIt is said that this style was designed in the period of Later Han Dynasty of China.

First, Reisho-tai was simplified and then, Gyosho-tai further deformed to be Sosho-tai.

It is a sort of ultimate style of brush writing, yet a very difficult one to identify.

Therefore, we would recommend that you check the seal impression first before you place an order.

And if you like the impression, your level of satisfaction should stay high.

Since Sosho-tai is very unique like Reisho-tai, it is not recommendable for jitsuin or mitomein for either individuals or businesses.

Kaisho-tai (Regular Script)

mitomein-kaishotaiThis style derives from Reisho-tai to best fit paper and brush.

Kaisho-tai is the most widely and frequently used and most familiar style in this modern era.

It is definitely easy to read and mostly accepted for mitomein (ginkoin) for individuals as much as Koin-tai.

However, due to its simple and clear identity, Kaisho-tai is not normally used for jitsuin for individuals or businesses.

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