Hanko: a Part of Daily Life in Japan that makes a Great Souvenir!



Hanko: a Part of Daily Life in Japan that makes a Great Souvenir!


Hanko are personal seals that bear the name of their owner. These have been in use in Japan for governmental purposes since the eighth century, and continue to be an indispensable part of life in Japan. Japanese need their hanko for many things such as renting an apartment or signing a contract to start a new job. Because of their necessity, there are many places where one can buy them. They come in a variety of materials including plastic, various woods, and even stone. It follows that the price tags on hanko vary considerable. You can find hanko for common names at 100 yen stores, or get one specially engraved for you at a hanko-ya (hanko store). There are also self-inking varieties that are quite convenient. 
Premade hanko of common names

Even if you’re not planning on living in Japan, a hanko makes a great souvenir. You can get one made for you with your name spelled out in the roman alphabet which is called romaji in Japanese. Or, with a little help from a Japanese speaker, you can transliterate your name into one of Japan’s two phonetic alphabets: hiragana or katakana. The latter alphabet is most commonly used for foreign names or loanwords. 
A personal self-inking hanko

For example, my first name becomes レイチェル (reicheru) when written in Japanese. As you can see, it fits nicely on the hanko that I use on intra-office documents. My name is written from left to right on this seal, but the one I use for everything else is written left to right, top to bottom. 

While these regular hanko are cool enough, there’s a particular hanko-ya that you should really stop by if you’re in the market for a memorable souvenir. 

Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop

Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop is located at Yanaka Ginza Shoten-gai, an outdoor shopping arcade located in Yanaka, one of the neighborhoods that makes up the popular Yanesen area of Tokyo. 
The front of Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop

It’s an easy place to get to. Just walk for a bit from Nippori Station until you reach Yuyake Dandan (lit. sunset stairs) and the entrance to the shopping arcade. The shop is located close to the entrance. 
Lots of different animal illustrations are available

The walls of the store are decorated with images of the kinds of hanko they can make for their customers. In addition to the person’s name, there are also all sorts of illustrations! 
Cute animal hanko

Here we have a bear with a scarf, an extremely happy shoebill, a scratching cat, a cat who caught a mouse, a kangaroo, and a lop eared rabbit. These are just some of the many options available. 
Different sizes of hanko available

In just thirty minutes, you can get your very own self-inking hanko made in one of four sizes: 10mm (2,600 yen), 18mm (3,500 yen), 24mm (3,800 yen), and 37mm (5,600 yen). This is a great place to stop before going off to do some sightseeing in the area. There are also wooden hanko available for 4,800 yen, but these take seven days to prepare.
choose your ink color and font

While most hanko for official use have red ink, at Shinimonogurui you can choose from one of five colors: orange, black, red, blue, and green. The most popular color is said to be orange. 
choose your case color

Next, choose your case color from one of six options.
Samples of hanko are available to try

The store has samples so you can see what the ink colors look like in real life. 
Several fonts are available

Lastly, choose your font. Whether you want to have your name written in Japanese or in English, they have several nice options. Besides the fonts pictured here, you can also have one of the staff write your name by hand for a different look. 
Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop's order form

Here’s the order form for the hanko. Don’t be intimidated that it’s all written in Japanese. Just fill in your name as you want it written on the hanko in the second box from the top, select your font (third box), ink color (fourth box), case color (fifth box), and check whether you want it gift wrapped (sixth box). Below that you’ll fill in your name (seventh box), phone number should you have one (eighth box), and your address should you want it shipped to you for an additional fee (ninth box). If you need help, just let the staff know. 
DiGJAPAN! large hanko

For this piece, we decided to get a DiGJAPAN! Stamp. After debating about what design to get, we went with this kitty showing us his rear end. 
DiGJAPAN large hanko in action

Here’s our DiGJAPAN! hanko in action. Pretty cute, right? 
Close up of the DiGJAPAN! hanko stamp

What kind of animal would you get?
T shirts are also available next door to Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop

P.S. if you really like the illustrations on the stamps, they’re also available as T-shirts from the shop next door. 

Stop by Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop when you stop by Yanaka! 


Shinimonogurui Stamp Shop | 邪悪なハンコ屋 しにものぐるい
Address: 3-11-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 12:00pm~6:00pm 
Closed Tuesdays
Website (Japanese only):

Liked this story? Like DiGJAPAN!
on Facebook for daily updates!




    • suzie chaput

      Can you give me a link for commun japanese name? I what to buy one from yen store. The site I found have like 15 differents kanji for Suzu.

  • Open a DiGJAPAN!
    account to comment.

    Open a DiGJAPAN! Account