When to Bring Your Hanko if You Live in Japan

If you’re a foreigner living in Japan, you’ve probably experienced this scenario at least once. You set out to make applications for something, maybe you go to the ward office, or to the bank.

You check and double check your required documents- residence card, passport, paperwork, check.

You spend time patiently waiting in line, and when it’s finally your turn the nice Japanese person checks your documents, says everything is fine and finally, asks if you brought your hanko.

You freeze. “Hanko?” you ask, and they nod and tell you they’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, but you need your stamp for them to complete the process.

Dejected, you go home and amid frustrated sighs of “Why Japanese People” you sift through your things to find that all-important piece of wood (or horn, or metal, or whatever floats your boat) with your name on it.

Why didn’t they just say so before?!

While in recent years, Japan has grown a little more forgiving by allowing foreigners to sign their name in place of using a hanko, many institutions still retain the use of stamps as formal identification. The problem is, nobody really tells you explicitly whether to bring your hanko or not.

Sure, you could  just take it everywhere you go on the off chance that you might need it, but a hanko’s small size not only makes it easy to get lost amidst all your belongings, but to misplace as well. That’s why, this list summarizes the important situations that call for hanko so you can be prepared, and never be caught without one again.


  1. Going to the Bank

The bank is often one of the first places to go upon arriving in Japan, and this is probably the place where foreigners get turned away the most often for not having a hanko with them. This makes opening a bank account nearly impossible without first getting your personal hanko made.

Aside from opening a bank account, many situations at the bank will call for a hanko, including applications for loans, auto-deduction from your bank account for bills, and many more. So, if a situation has anything to do with your money or your bank, take it with you because chances are you will need your hanko.

  1. Renting an Apartment

After you have your new bank account, you can now head to the real estate office to find yourself a new apartment to stay in. With perhaps some exceptions from offices that may specialise in housing foreigners, take your hanko with you because it will be required to sign the lease for an apartment.


  1. Starting a New Job


You may have started noticing the pattern by now that in Japan, most formal and important procedures typically require a hanko. Starting a new job is no exception, with Japanese companies often requesting new hires to place the impression of their seal on contracts and other relevant documents.


  1. Getting Married

For many, not much can top getting married in terms of significance. And because we know by now that all important events call for a hanko, be sure to bring one when you and your beau are looking to get registered!

Official paperwork submitted to the government office will require impressions from both of you, so if you are planning to get married, make sure you have a hanko first!


  1. Having a Baby

After marriage comes a babies, so don’t keep your hanko on a high shelf because a parent’s hanko impression is required at the registration of a birth of a new child.

In fact, many couples will have a new hanko made for their child as well to accompany them on their new journey. Therefore, it is not only you, but your baby too who will be getting a lot of use out of a hanko.

For more information on the types of hanko and when to use them, our About Hanko page has all you need to know.

Or, browse the store for our beautiful selection of hanko and get one crafted esspecially for you. 



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