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Inkan - 印鑑


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In Japan, one uses an inkan to sign contracts and official documents, instead of a handwritten signature. Here is mine:

As you can see, there's nothing particular about it, it's just a sceal with the name on it. There are many shapes and sizes, from the ugliest (but handy) one to beautiful hand-crafted models. Also, from what I've understood, the higher your social position, the larger your inkan (always the same story...). Well, mine is small but at least it's easy to carry!...The fact that one has to carry his own signature as a physical object probably sounds strange to a Westerner but, just like an id card or a credit card, it's just something to get used to.

So where can one buy an inkan? Usually in stationery shops, but there are also specialized shops and it's even possible to find them in 100-yen shops. Apart from the size and shape, the price can vary a lot: from 100 yen (80 cents) to several tens of thousands (several hundred dollars), and I'm pretty much convinced that some rare models go well beyond that. Nothing really surprising though, think about let's say...pens, it's just the same. In my case, my inkan cost 1000 yen, I ordered it at a stationery shop and got it within a week.

As for the characters choice, it depends. Japanese people normally write their family name, and people who have a rather common name are lucky as there are tons of ready-to-use inkan in 100-yen shops:

Paradoxically, foreigners have more options. They can use:

  • family name written in katanaka: the most common and certainly most recommended option, it's the one I picked
  • kanji that have a reading close to the actual family name prononciation
  • in case the family name has a specific meaning, kanji that have a similar meaning
  • free choice. As strange as it seems, it is possible to choose anything, even if it's totally unrelated to one's name: this is not really recommended though, for example someone whose name is "smith" and signs with a "Tanaka" inkan will most likely seem weird. As foreigners with fertile imagination, here are a few suggestions we came up with: 神様 (god), 痴漢 (pervert), 無名 (anonymous) etc...

Besides, an inkan is not just a fancy way to sign and without it, many things remain purely inaccessible! For example, opening an account at most banks, renting an apartment, etc, are just not possible. In my case, I needed an inkan to open a bank account, then I needed a bank account to suscribe a mobile phone contract.

Here's a practical example with my rental contract, where the inkan is used to sign and to initial each page:

Still, it's not a big deal not to have an inkan when it comes to everyday life, since it's not required for making a karaoke member card or renting a bicycle for instance. It is essentially used for occasional procedures (administration, clubs, banks etc.), so no problem for a tourist, but as a resident it is necessary!

Last thing: the word hanko is also used and even though it has the same meaning as inkan, the latter is more formal.

Category: Everyday life

14 comment(s)

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By Matt on 07/15/2007 at 19:43:30

et ben, je découvre moi !

By Pierre on 07/17/2007 at 10:54:47

Pratique pour les écoliers, ca permet de signer les absences et carnets de notes à la place des parents.

By Tarto on 07/17/2007 at 16:48:07

Encore faut-il mettre la main sur le précieux sésame !...Je vais me renseigner dans mon entourage, y'a forcément quelqu'un qui a déjà fait ça.

By Pouype on 08/06/2007 at 11:56:44

Pas mal ce système :-)

Bon sinon, rien a voir, mais ton flux rss est à l'envers et marche pas top top. Ce billet par exemple n'apparait pas :-/

By Tarto on 08/06/2007 at 18:57:17

Aaaah, enfin un retour ! Bien reçu, je regarde ça.
Merci !

By Leti on 10/12/2007 at 09:59:43

Il m'est arrivé la même chose ce matin.
Pas d'inkan, pas de compte bancaire!!
Donc, il me reste à l'acheter

By Tarto on 10/23/2007 at 14:48:44

Bonjour Leti
Je ne pense pas te connaître, alors je te souhaite la bienvenue sur mon site ! Que fais-tu au Japon ?

By luna97 on 02/08/2012 at 06:05:32

Bonjour, Oui faire un inkan et obligatoire pour les résident au Japon, non pour les étudiants ou touriste.

Pour une compte en banque tout dépend de la banque ou vous souhaitez ouvrir votre comptes, au japon il y as des banques étrangère dont une signature et une carte d'immigration suffise amplement.

Pour les Location cela dépend si vous passer directement par le propriétaire, il ne vous sera pas obligatoire, en revanche oui par une agence.

Pour les abonnement téléphonique d'un téléphone portable, ont peu toujours s'arranger, du moment que vous posséder un visa et d'une adresse. Ceci n'est pas valable pour les abonnement du téléphone de maison.

Mais j'avoue qu'il serai préférentiel d'en avoir un, je doit en faire également un, jusqu'à présent j'ai toujours réussi a faire passer ma signature ^-^comme quoi un sourire peuvent passer partout.

Bonne continuation. kisu

By Tarto on 02/08/2012 at 06:44:30

Merci pour ces précisions

By Jé on 10/01/2012 at 07:37:52

Excellent cet article mais pour rendre ton sceau officiel, tu n'as pas besoin de l'enregistrer en mairie, le faire apparaitre sur la 外人card?

By Tarto on 10/01/2012 at 21:01:39

Tu dois en effet l'enregistrer en mairie (quoique c'est généralement fait par la boutique où tu l'achètes) mais il n'a pas besoin d'apparaître sur ta carte de séjour

By Evelyne on 11/08/2015 at 13:11:09

Bonjour et merci pour ce blog bien vivant.
Je vais me fabriquer un inkan pour signer mon travail artistique. petite question : quel type d'encre est utilisée ? Chacun a son tampon encreur dans sa poche ? Merci pour les infos - Evelyne - Belgique

By Name on 12/05/2015 at 18:49:53


By Hazem on 11/02/2016 at 11:47:42

Merci pour l'article. Mais si on perd son Inkan? On risque quelque chose?

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