In Japan, a hanko is used in place of a signature. A hanko is a small, cylindrical object with your name engraved on the surface of one end, typically made of wood, but also ivory or stone. Ready-made and custom-made versions exist. An inkan or hanko is the Japanese equivalent of a signature. This signature is actually replaced by a seal that is engraved with the name of a person or company. This seal is used for most legal acts and contracts involving the owner. The seal is required for Japanese citizens and those who are staying in Japan for long periods of time. You will need it to sign a contract, open a bank account, or buy real estate. Unlike most countries in the world, it is not common in Japan for people to sign personal contracts with a handwritten signature. Instead, the Japanese use a seal that, once stamped on an important document, serves as a moral and legal contract on behalf of the owner. If you don’t have an inkan, don’t worry, you can easily get one. Foreigners will have their names engraved in either katakana or roman characters. If you live in Japan, you will need a Hanko in many situations. This includes opening a bank account, renting an apartment, buying real estate, and signing a contract of employment. In every situation, you’ll see the stamp symbol. Any document that requires your signature will have a mark on it. The mark on the stamp represents the seal that will remain after you have stamped it, and you will have to put your stamp in that spot. Stamps are made of various materials, including wood, plastic and metal. Corporations such as businessmen, companies and organizations have their own stamps, although only a few people in the organization can handle them. Using a corporate seal is a moral and legal pledge to represent the company. Foreigners staying in Japan for a short period of time are usually not required to produce a seal. In this case, a handwritten signature can replace a stamp in most procedures. Depending on your stage of life and the importance of the contract you are signing, you can use three types of seals. Jitsuin. This seal is created on demand (it’s unique) and must be registered at your city or town hall. Anyone over the age of 15 can register an official seal at the municipal office. Ginkouin. This seal is also made on demand. You need to have it registered with the bank that will record your seal at the same time you open your bank account. You will need it when you sign bank documents, such as transfers. The minimum age to register a ginkgo seal depends on what is required to open a bank account and varies with each bank and type of account. Mitomein. This seal can be used in your daily activities. For example, you can use it in your daily life, such as when you receive a package at home, or when you receive a specific document at work. If you are not registered with a real seal or ginkgo, any seal with your name engraved on it will be a mitomein. Some come with an ink tank. They are not registered at city hall and can be purchased at a $1 shop. The use of this seal (also called shachi-tah) is sometimes refused in procedures such as opening a bank account. Opening a bank account is a necessary procedure for working in Japan. Normally, a personal seal is required at the first step. Most Japanese banks still require foreign customers to use a personal seal as a signature. In the case of bank, you will need to have your own stamp engraved before you can proceed. However, some banks do allow handwritten signatures. Be sure to check the information you need on this matter, common procedures, the requirements of each bank, and a list of banks that make it easy for foreigners to open a bank account in Japan in advance. Meishi or business cards are also an essential part of doing business in Japan. When people meet each other for the first time, they introduce themselves and exchange business cards. The business card includes not only the full name, but also the company name, title, address, phone number and email address. Younger or more junior people give out their business cards first. It is also common to give it with both hands to show respect.