Posted by: Menzie | May 20, 2009

Where do I sign?

Let’s be honest, how much cursive do you know outside of how to sign your name? Really the only time most of us use it is to sign formal documents or checks.This act of signing your name is a very powerful and important part of western culture, but you’ll never sign anything in Japan. You’ll stamp it.

hanko1a

For any important documentation the Japanese use a hanko. The hanko is a personalized wooden stamp that bears a person’s name and is essentially their personal seal. The hanko is dipped in red ink (always red ink) and then pressed upon a document to denote approval, compliance or verification in the same way most people use their signature.

Most businesses in Japan won’t accept a signature because they don’t consider it legitimate or permanent. If you want to buy a cellphone, you’ll need to use your hanko. If you’re opening a bank account, you’ll need to use your hanko. When you sign your time sheet, you will need to use your hanko. The only time you won’t need to use your hanko is for a check. That is because no one in Japan uses or accepts personal checks, but that’s a topic for another day.

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