Farewell, Hanko

Photo: maletgs

Upon my arrival at Haneda airport in Tokyo, one of the identification components that I was told I would receive was a personal seal, referred to as Hanko,  that contained raised lettering in the form of my last name in Japanese. If I ever wanted to open up a bank account, the Hanko would allow me to perform simple transactions and sign important documents.

According to a Bloomberg article, this business practice which has held since the 1800s is now being phased out by Japanese banks in favor of current, technological approaches.

Japanese banks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Resona Holdings Inc. are phasing out Hankos in an attempt to slash paperwork piles and make the long-awaited leap into the 21st century.

The goal is to enable clients to open bank accounts without the use of a seal and ease the transition to digital platforms, aligning with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s draft that pledged to make government services available online. 600 Resona branches have now implemented the more efficient system.

Usually, one may carry three types of Hanko; a registered “jitsuin” for major contracts such as buying a home, a “ginkoin” for bank transactions; and a “mitomein” for tasks like signing for deliveries. Parents also purchase hand-crafted seals for their children once they come of age, while tourists tend to happen upon them in gift shops and keep them as souvenirs.

While I can express my satisfaction with Japan’s attempts to become modernized, a small part of me would be saddened at the prospect of parting ways with something that is generational in usage and has played a pivotal role in my everyday life.

That being said, I can’t recall a time when I was required to make use of my Hanko, nevertheless, it’s an institution that I hope will be kept alive in some form or another, even if it may be for nostalgia purposes.