Hanko culture in peril

As we reported earlier, the coronavirus pandemic has deepened concerns over Japan's traditional reliance on analog hanko seals for approving and signing documents, prompting the Abe administration to consider reviewing the hanko system in order to promote telework.

Naturally, any change in the system has a direct impact on the shops and companies involved in making hanko seals. Some of them may understandably feel apprehensive about a future where analog seals are no longer de rigueur. But being resigned to an uncertain fate is not the only possible reaction to the crisis.

One hanko shop in Hiroshima has decided to take a stand.

Irie Meishōdō Hanko Shop

Irie Meishōdō Co., Ltd. 株式会社入江明正堂 has been making high-quality hand-carved hanko seals within Hiroshima and beyond for a century. They also accept orders for rubber stamps and all manner of other hanko and stamp products.

They pride themselves on the fact that they have provided seals to the Imperial Family and they currently employ the services of Yoshiaki Yamamoto 山本佳明, a first-class seal engraver 一級印章彫刻技能士 with over 30 years of experience who studied under master Suisei Irie 入江水聲, recognized as one of the top 100 seal engravers of Japan.

Free digital hanko designs

Realizing that teleworkers are in desperate need of digital hanko during the pandemic, and cognizant of the problems arising from Japan's current hanko system now and in the future, Ryōta Irie, CEO of Irie Meishōdō Co., Ltd. has come up with a generous offer:

From now until the end of May, anyone in need of a digital hanko can send in a request online and they will receive an originally designed digital hanko completely free of charge. This offer is not packaged with another purchase and comes with absolutely no strings attached. Master engraver Yamamoto will personally create the design with his own calligraphy, which will then be digitized and converted into a digital hanko according to your specifications.

As Mr. Irie explains in his company's press release, typical digital hanko stamps in circulation are generated with software using fonts or even based on the user's own handwriting, often resulting in seals which lack in originality and a sense of good design, not to mention look amateurish. Moreover, if you're using one for digital contracts, it's important to have a digital hanko which cannot be easily imitated and which reflects well on you or your company through good design.

As you can see in the image below, a well-designed hanko looks good when you use it in official documents:

Here is a close-up of a few more sample designs:


  • Style: mitome-in 認印 circle type (square kaku-in 角印 corporate seals or company representative seals are not accepted)
  • Content: last name only, last name and the first kanji of the first name, etc.
  • Varieties: 10.5 mm, 12 mm, 13.5 mm, 15 mm circular, 11.5 mm long (oval), or 9 mm mini
  • Graphic dimensions: 400 px X 400 px
  • File size: under 512 kb

Although the press release makes no mention it, there's no reason a foreign national can't benefit from the service if they have a kanji alias.

How to request a free digital hanko

To apply for your free digital hanko, visit the special page at Irie Meishōdō Co., Ltd. (instructions are in Japanese only).

By - Ben K.