In Western countries, a signature is used to make contracts and other documents official.
But in Japan (and China and Korea), an 印鑑 (name seal) is used.
In Japanese, these are called 印鑑 (inkan) or 判子 (hanko).
Generally speaking, 判子 (hanko) is used less officially.
When I first came to Japan, all documents required a 印鑑 (name seal). Opening bank accounts, receiving registered mail, contracts, etc.
And before I got one, I would be required to give a thumb-print with the red ink used for name seals in lieu of a 印鑑 (name seal).
But once more foreigners started coming to Japan in recent years, Western style signatures have become acceptable for less important documents. More important documents still require a 印鑑 (name seal), though.
So, although we have a 印鑑 (name seal), if the mailman brings me registered mail, I’ll just sign my name with a pen in the space marked 「印鑑」 on the form rather than break out my 印鑑 (name seal).
But for bank paperwork, tax forms, my kids school registration papers, etc, I need to use our 印鑑 (name seal).
Here’s a photo I took of a shop that makes 判子 (name seals):
And here’s a picture that I found online from a shop that makes 印鑑 (name seals). You can see the name being carved into the seal, and what the name looks like when stamped with the official red ink:
And here’s a photo I took of some “off the rack” 判子 (name seals) that are used for less important documents:
Here’s another photo I took today (it doesn’t look like anything special to me because I’ve seen these signs everyday for the past eighteen years…but maybe you’re interested):
Can you guess what this sign means?
It says 「止まれ」, which means “Stop”. (The mirror at many Japanese intersections is to help you check for oncoming traffic).
Most signs in Japan are different from their counterparts in other countries, and they often have no English written on them (eighteen years ago there was even less English here!). If you’re gonna stay in Japan, it helps to learn how to read…but it’s not easy!
Japan’s stop-sign is triangular, but many countries, it seems, have adopted the U.S. style red octogon stop-sign…even China. The stop-sign in China is red and octogon shaped, like in America…but, like Japan, it doesn’t have any English written on it either.
The Chinese stop-sign just has one kanji character on it: 「停」. In Chinese, it’s pronounced as “Ting!“, I believe (I don’t speak any Chinese)…but in Japan, that character for “stop” (「停」) would be pronounced as テイ (tei) or とまる (tomaru).
But, as I said above, the Japanese stop-sign doesn’t use that character…but rather 「止まれ」.
I finished adding Category listing for all of my previous posts. You can use the “Categories” drop-down menu to the right to find posts that I’ve written by subject. (You can also use the “Search” box, similairily).