business

Traditional Japanese seal system hampers telework for some

75 Comments
By Natsuko FUKUE

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2020 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


75 Comments
Login to comment

Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code, but still ahead of the west.

-47 ( +3 / -50 )

And this shows how Japan is behind the west in such situation,back in the EU such kind of job can be done all by home without the requirement of a seal.

This is the right time for this government to modernize this very outdated medieval system.

35 ( +36 / -1 )

AkieToday 06:57 am JST

Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code,

China is using qr codes for business matters?

but still ahead of the west

Would you mind developing? Ahead how? Ahead of what?

27 ( +28 / -1 )

Many people think Japan is such a high-tech cutting edge society until they try living here

"I need to physically be in the office because I need to submit paper documents and stamp them,"

40 ( +42 / -2 )

This is a good counterpoint to the argument that Japan’s cultural preference for cleanliness and lack of human contact (no tradition of shaking hands, etc) allows it to avoid an outbreak.

17 ( +19 / -2 )

This is not difficult to believe at all. If documents do not have the 3 or 4 management hierarchy seals they cannot be processed.

Akie - Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code, but still ahead of the west

I’m not sure why this person would make such a comment. QR code’s are outdated technology from 20 years ago, which is why the are not used ‘in the west’. Japan will overcome the problem of their ancient seal system by sending faxes - another outdated technology.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

Django bong

you left out the part where she works in a IT office!

17 ( +17 / -0 )

This is exactly the reason why my wife continues to have to go to work, as they (her boss anyway) need to stamp certain documents. Three weeks ago, she said they also needed to go to work as a lot of their communication from customers are through faxes, so they needed to be physically in the office to collect them. I told her that fax machines can automatically make a digital copy, and you can then just access from your computer. Two days later she comes home and tells me the IT dept has now enabled this feature on their fax machine. So for the last 5 years, they have been physically collecting bits of paper because they simply didn't realize they could make a digital copy. I'm not making this up - this is exactly what is wrong with Japan inc - the inability to make a change for the better even when it has been staring you in the face for literally years.

45 ( +46 / -1 )

I had to go to the office to use my hanko and send a fax? What year is it?

38 ( +38 / -0 )

Sorry ... LOL!!!

9 ( +12 / -3 )

If documents are converted to pdf's then a hanko can be used digitally, which I have done, just the same as a digital signature. The document can then be printed if required.

I have had a paperless office for 15 years and I haven't owned a printer since then. Pop round to Lawson's if I really need a print.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

What year is it?

This is was my exact question to her.

Her answer was "I know..." and "What can I do...?"

16 ( +16 / -0 )

And this shows how Japan is behind the west in such situation,back in the EU such kind of job can be done all by home without the requirement of a seal.

exactly.

This is the right time for this government to modernize this very outdated medieval system.

absolutely.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Digital hanko? I can see computer screens being stamped.

22 ( +22 / -0 )

So outdated. Can we finally lose this?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

When I opened my business in Japan, Japanese companies refused to do business with me unless I have a fax machine.My bank in Japan also refused and insisted that I must fax invoices to them,send by post or personally take them to their office.Meanwhile all the companies abroad were all digital including developing countries.

29 ( +30 / -1 )

The technology solution already exists and is even mentioned in this article. Any company using this as an excuse to make their people go to the office need to pull their fingers out and get it fixed.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I have three digital Hanko's, line and block types.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Nothing like team spirit to spread the virus around by all sharing the same paperwork.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Everyone needs a fax at home if they want to telecommunicate. We need to get colour faxes, at least two colour faxes, so that the hanko can be printed in red, and the problem will be solved.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The inflexibility and reluctance to change really is an indictment of Japanese business and the political system.

An already super conservative country run almost exclusively by old men - it’s no real surprise that systems just fester without being upgraded or evolving significantly.

So we have local government stuck with Windows XP, schools still using blackboards, and businesses still largely paper based, faxing documents, and stamping with hankos.

Everyone outside Japan thinks Japan is the cutting edge of technology - Japan certainly has companies producing some cutting edge technology, but Japan itself is very much stuck in the past.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Great! Fax machines and hankos! Windows XP has never felt so hi-tech.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

unique seal

*picks one from the shelf ...

12 ( +12 / -0 )

QR code’s are outdated technology from 20 years ago, which is why the are not used ‘in the west’. Japan will overcome the problem of their ancient seal system by sending faxes - another outdated technology.

Gave me a chuckle. When I visited Japan a few months ago I was surprised they were still using QR codes. I had to download an App to scan the code at a restaurant. My first thought was why are they still using this outdated stuff. Still, I love Japan and their people guess some things are slow to change. As a cash society, I wonder if they will change that.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

When your move to Japan for the first time, the whole hanko thing feels novel and exciting. After s while, it is nothing more than an irritating anachronism. We think fax machines are outdated, yet the Japanese still think blocks of wood are meaningful communication tools.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

As much as Japan has to pull itself into at least the 20th century let alone the 21st, there is no way in hell the traditionalists will let the hanko be done away with. Hell we have no reverted to using Japanese names with Surname first and name second. Why? Because it is the traditional way. People like Taro Konno and others will demand that we keep this archaic system, only because this is the Japanese way!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Fax machine take the biscuit! Hankos can be worked around by creating an image scan of the stamp and inserting into digital versions of documents. However, not sure if this is legal, though in general it’s the legal intention that should mean there isn’t an issue. Companies that are pedantic will either be ignorant or use this as an excuse to hide the fact they are actually against teleworking due to their conservative and change resistant approach. Fax machines are a tell tale sign. It’s 2020 right?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Ken. My bank in Japan also refused and insisted that I must fax invoices to them,send by post or personally take them to their office.

What kind of business? In 30 years of business in Japan, “my bank” has never seen even one of my invoices and there is no regulation which requires it. I’ve never faxed anything to my bank. My Japanese accountant and Japanese clients will all accept pdf invoices and statements. It’s a non-issue.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There’s a really useful thing called e mail. Oh, and video calls....

jus sayin’

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My very Japanese company has digital signatures BUT STILL USES FAX MACHINES!! smh

7 ( +7 / -0 )

And this shows how Japan is behind the west in such situation,back in the EU such kind of job can be done all by home without the requirement of a seal.

This is the right time for this government to modernize this very outdated medieval system.

There are so many applications that you can use your Apple Pencil or whatever writing device you have. Most schools in the States have gone online, all of these changes are not new and easily doable and adaptable, if you don’t take advantage of the available and practical technology we have, someone else will use it and you’ll ultimately lose out in the end. No one likes change necessarily, but in this new changed world we live in, even the Japanese need to change, if they don’t these complicated problems will only worsen.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Email is so 1990s right? So what does that say about fax machines? No seriously, the fundamental issue here is similar to Bill Gates stating that the pandemic R&D was parked due to petty financial penny wise decisions. Now it’s caught up with them and too late to fix it will cost loads more in not only money but worse still lives.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Could be resolved easily: There is already a law in place that states qualified, digital signatures are to be treated as equal to inkan/hanko. All that is missing is law to enforce everyone (including the government) who is accepting a hanko/inkan to also provide a way for the form to be submitted electronically signed.

You could even use this as a way to push the My Number system further, since the card contains such a signature.

And the best: No one is left behind, because if you don't want to use it, you can still stamp the old way. Only if the customer/employee/citizen wants to use a digital signature, you have to provide a way.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

A friend of mine who lives in the countryside had to come into town to do some business at City Hall. Sadly, he'd forgotten his inkan. "No problem," the clerk helpfully suggested, "Just go to the shop on the second floor and buy one." Problem: the kanji of his name was unusual and not available, so he had to drive all the way home and back again.

Stupid system.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Simple solution. Get rid of the system. Throw out the outdated thinking as well.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Everyone outside Japan thinks Japan is the cutting edge of technology - Japan certainly has companies producing some cutting edge technology, but Japan itself is very much stuck in the past.

Almost everyone. Problem is, most who perceive and (god forbid) point out such flaws in the Japanese order of things are labelled haters and told to go home. Sigh....

16 ( +16 / -0 )

@Akie

Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code, but still ahead of the west.

Oh yes, the very current and incredibly useful QR code...

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I will say this, the system in general on how to send and do transactions overall is outdated. Take Shinsei Bank for example, I usually don’t need an inkan when I apply for a card or do transactions when I’m in my local branch, however....when they ask me to sign a document or any transactions, they’ll ask for me to sign and then they compare it to my original signature when I first opened the account and I have this problem every time I sign and the staff always say I’m sorry sir, but your signature is not the same as the one we have on file, could you please try again? They made me sign eight times and on the Sixth time, the staff was showing me a copy of my original signature and telling me, how I should try to write the curvature and the stroke or which way is the best to get my signature to look like the original and at that point I just exploded and told the staff and management, every signature is unique and there is “no way” I can duplicate The EXACT same signature! It’s impossible, but all I got was, “we understand and we are sorry, but this is our policy,”but after about around 30 minutes continuous trying, they reluctantly relented and said, we will make an exception this time and completed my transaction.

So the inkan issue is just really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to modernization productivity and efficiency In this country.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

They never have my inkan in the shop

4 ( +4 / -0 )

No one should be surprised by Japan’s reluctance to adopt the latest technology.

During WWII the Japanese only discovered the Yagi-Uda antenna after capturing Singapore from the British, who had adopted it years before.

D’oh.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Digital 'hankos' are easy to use, while digital signatures to authenticate documents and emails have been around for years. The Japan Tax Authorities (NTA) accept them, and of course even have the eTax system for tax returns. When my company was audited a few years ago, they were fascinated my 'The Paperless Office', but nevertheless accepted it. Much more advanced than my local bank, who like to have invoices faxed to them to validate overseas payment transactions.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@mike james - copying invoices to banks

It's quite common to do that for overseas transactions, especially for local banks, as they are always suspecting money laundering activities! Of course the big banks get away with it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan should be straight up embarrassed and ashamed of their handling of this situation. The best we can hope for is for corona to clear out the entire government and the showa-jidai ojisans that work tirelessly at keeping this country from living up to it's full potential. It is sickening to pay taxes to such a corrupt and inept society. Take em down! #TeamCorona

9 ( +10 / -1 )

To be fair, you don't hear about inkans being forged or leaked all over the Internet, unlike various digital security schemes.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

@bassfunk

This EXACT same thing happened to me with citibank (now smbc), in the end they showed me the original signature I signed 18 years ago, and told me to take a photo of it with my phone.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

If you want your Hanko to be legal you have register it at your ward office.

Jitsu-in

A jitsu-in (literal meaning “actual/true seal”) is the one you would use when signing a contract. If you’re a freelancer and you need to sign a contract with a company, you need a jitsu-in. For the jitsu-in to have legal standing, you must register it at your city office. After you’ve registered it, they’ll also issue you with a “inkan card” which will allow you to print certificates of seal registration.

Ginko-in

A ginko-in is simply a hanko for financial transactions. Instead of registering it with your city office, you just register it with your bank(s). It can be used to withdraw money from your account or sign up for a loan, so you should look after it.

Mitome-in

A mitome-in is your regular, everyday hanko which you use for everyday things—like receiving parcels or for stamping on an invoice if you are a freelancer. The mitome-in is not registered anywhere and has no legal standing,

https://tokyocheapo.com/shopping-2/hanko-japanese-personal-seals/

Shinsei Bank All transactions can made online without visiting a branch which because of the pandemic are closed or shorter hours and phone esquires are also limited to only important ones. I have been twice in 10 years.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Could they use Docusign?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Kazuaki Shimazaki - to be fair, you don't hear about inkans being forged or leaked all over the Internet, unlike various digital security schemes.

But you do hear about family members going to the bank and clearing out relatives' accounts...with no check at all from the banks. They rely on possession of the hanko as proof of ownership of the account.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

A friend of mine who lives in the countryside had to come into town to do some business at City Hall. Sadly, he'd forgotten his inkan. "No problem," the clerk helpfully suggested, "Just go to the shop on the second floor and buy one." Problem: the kanji of his name was unusual and not available, so he had to drive all the way home and back again.

Laguna, I have done that as well several times, OR I have brought the ""wrong"" hanko, so now when I know I will need them I try to bring a bagful of them in order to have the ""correct"" one...….I HATE hanko! LOL!!

This EXACT same thing happened to me with citibank (now smbc), in the end they showed me the original signature I signed 18 years ago, and told me to take a photo of it with my phone.

Ditto here at Citibank, opened my account maybe 25yrs ago & for the life of me I could NOT reproduce my signature, I could kind of remember what it was like, semi well written out, but over the years having to sign for takkyubin etc, my ""signature"" has morphed into kind of a Nike swish logo over time

I often equate this kind of "japan" stuff to the place I went on a school trip near home, was call PIONEER VILLAGE, where we saw dirt floors, wooden buildings, how butter was originally made, its THIS kind of feeling I get here in Japan with hanko & paperwork etc.

I often say Japan is good at inventing tech(now mostly parts though, much fewer products) but NOT when it comes to implimentation

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"I need to physically be in the office because I need to submit paper documents and stamp them," Mizuho, who works at an IT firm in Tokyo, told AFP.

Japan, so far ahead and yet 200+ years behind in some ways that hurts it more than it helps, case in point, this pandemic. Culture and history are important to a country like Japan but the hanko is one such item that actually cripples Japan in today's electronic business world.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Akie

Seriously???

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan should be straight up embarrassed and ashamed of their handling of this situation. The best we can hope for is for corona to clear out the entire government and the showa-jidai ojisans that work tirelessly at keeping this country from living up to it's full potential. It is sickening to pay taxes to such a corrupt and inept society. Take em down! #TeamCorona

Yeah, they should be and should feel ashamed and embarrass, but you have to admit you’re doing something wrong first and that is just not how they see it. When it comes to Japanese tradition and pushing modernization, guess what, you’re going to be on the losing end.

This EXACT same thing happened to me with citibank (now smbc), in the end they showed me the original signature I signed 18 years ago, and told me to take a photo of it with my phone.

Yeah, even thinking about it now makes my collar stand up.

Ditto here at Citibank, opened my account maybe 25yrs ago & for the life of me I could NOT reproduce my signature, I could kind of remember what it was like, semi well written out, but over the years having to sign for takkyubin etc, my ""signature"" has morphed into kind of a Nike swish logo over time

I think they believe you can in some way mentally control and reproduce an exact copy of your signature, I had to tell these people at the bank. I told them it’s impossible, it’s as unique as your fingerprint, but on the good side, very difficult to copy which is better than any stamp, but as usual when you explain the retort is always, “we understand, but....”

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I'm not making this up - this is exactly what is wrong with Japan inc - the inability to make a change for the better even when it has been staring you in the face for literally years.

I think it's also the sempai/kohai culture that doesn't allow two way sharing of information. A lot of the younger generation are aware of better ways to do things but it's culturally not OK to speak up the chain and discuss new ways to do things.

Add to this what we know about the human brain losing plasticity as it ages and it's no wonder that the dinosaurs who make the decisions for the country don't know what's best for it...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Akie: "Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code, but still ahead of the west."

Unfortunately, both Japan and the West are way behind the North. I usually don't write long comments or complain online. But this... I mean, you can do so much better than this.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don’t have a hanko, refused to get one, my signature should suffice. Had a problem initially, not now.

As for faxes, my husband still has clients who will only fax things, and expect a fax in return. Ridiculous.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Håkan Henriksson said  "..you can do so much better than this".

Sure. In China, 50% of users scan QR Codes several times a week, while QR Code usage will be about 10.1 million in Europe by 2020.

For your information, there are 52 weeks in a year, and there are 1144 phone users per 1000 people in China, out of 1400 million people.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

This type of Nihonjiron craps is the reason why Abe and his incompetent goons keep getting away from criticisms.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Last year I met a deliveryman in Kobe who still carried a pocket pager and public telephone card.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan is still so out of date sometimes. And I love how kids still right reports in pencil (of course, has to be mechanical pencils because they are a Japanese technological invention, hence the "SHARPpen"!), and cannot figure out how to bypass the hanko method -- because it absolutely can't be done any other way than tradition! But they might allow you to fax a copy in the near future.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What has replaced the QR code?

I have an officially registered seal with one of those cards with the big seals on the card, and another one for the bank. Not sure why I have two.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Kazuaki Shimazaki - To be fair, you don't hear about inkans being forged or leaked all over the Internet

Yes, that it is correct. It’s because you can buy one at the ¥100 shop. Why would they be forged?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@tinawatanabe

Let's have a chat about that in 2-3 weeks time.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Unfortunately, Japan is behind China in using QR code, but still ahead of the west.

 QR code is a Japanese invention.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Plenty of processes are outdated : senpai/kookai, ringiseido, fax, hanko, etc.

Working six years ago in Japan, they stopped the hanko stuff on paper for the ringiseido (where all managers at same level have to review a proposal, even if no competence and no authority on the proposal itself).

Group spirit where only the top leader decides all. Medieval times for too many companies and for sure all politicians.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In order to promote the telework, first of all we should alternate this traditional seal system to the electric one.

We can't get boss's approval signature at home,if it goes on like this..

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is a workaround which we have been using for the last 4 yrs. Its called properly use of technology. A minor adjustment and business/profits went up. Don't get me wrong we still use some of the old business customs and practices but only when it is necessary and profitable for both sides. Outside that nope, can't use old outdated practices that are not viable globally and in more and more case locally too. This is why we are against having any old chiefs in our staff aside an advisor capacity. Many companies today hold on to these dinosaurs vs hiring them as independent consultants which keeps them working and retired at the same time.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hanko is a very dangerous instrument. 20 months, I gave a round hanko to the accountant, who works with me so that normal things can be done in japan. But 6 months after, that was june 2018. I found out that my hanko was used for , not approved purpose. He is still and accountant and zelishi in japan. I never use hanko again. He worked in the group and the group owner still keeps him.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The inland/hanko system is archaic and am too easily allows for fraud. But, like many things in Japan that are archaic, it continues because, “That’s how we’ve always done it.”

Japan: It worked once, so we’re still doing it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

These days I feel odd if my actual signature is needed, They too can be forged, my brother in America frequently does it for me when required. My own Hanko is a bit complicated, three Kanji characters and can't be bought in any shop. Someone would have to copy and make it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

at that point I just exploded and told the staff and management, every signature is unique

You could have made your own hanko and have saved the bank the trouble.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mike James,

Ken. My bank in Japan also refused and insisted that I must fax invoices to them,send by post or personally take them to their office.

*What kind of business? In 30 years of business in Japan, “my bank” has never seen even one of my invoices and there is no regulation which requires it. I’ve never faxed anything to my bank. My Japanese accountant and Japanese clients will all accept pdf invoices and statements. It’s a non-issue.*

My business is export.I invoice my clients overseas and they remit money to my bank in Japan,which I use to purchase products and ship abroad.

Japanese companies insist they must bill me via fax yet we can do it digitally.My bank in Japan insists that I must fax them the invoice,post it or take it directly to their my branch for verification purposes so that they can release the funds.This results in a lot of time wasting.We are now in the process of discussion with my clients abroad to relocate our source of the products we purchase here in Japan since we can get similar ones in other countries without all the drama and time wasting.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For Christs sake, they have digital signatures. You can sign your name on a touchpad. Scan the hanko if it's THAT much of a necessity for you to use.

The whole idea that a hanko/inkan is more secure than a signature is laughable. You can get it made anywhere. It's not like you have to go thru 50 forms of verification to get a hanko/inkan made up of anyone you want to impersonate.

And any foreigners reading this - think about any time you've been allowed to use your signature...just how OCD that person/company was if the signature did not match 100%, and then tell me a signature is not more secure than a hanko/inkan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A Hanko stamp is a "trust" thing... someone had to have had access to your Hanko to stamp the document with it. Simply scanning a Hanko is unacceptable as anyone can Photocopy a hanko, and cut/paste it upon the document. (So the originals with the upraised ink helps prove authenticity...!...? ) China has a similar system too... just in case you're wondering...

Though, I'm sure this Sounds really weird for Japan, a Country that's purportedly ahead of the curve in the Tech Sector....

There are many ways for certification of approval to be made these days securely, and without compromise. The fault rests with the Japanese Government for not encouraging the use and development of these technologies.... I guess, it's only because someone hasn't been able to explain it to them effectively... yet.

Maybe, we will see some change following the Pandemic.

However, as an example of change I have witnessed already, I have seen more usage of Mobile payments - but they really are in their infancy here - and often lead to delays in queues since the technology is Slow, and not that good at present (Please stop using it! Please realize that you're the annoying one in the front of the queue!!!) However, now, individual shoppers have to swipe their own Credit cards through machines as too any Points cards they may have .... that at least doesn't lead to the fumbling around by the so call contactless payments systems and works well. So Japan can adapt - just maybe not at the pace some hope.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They too can be forged, my brother in America frequently does it for me when required. 

If you’ve authorized your brother to sign for you, it’s not forged.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The ink on my hanko and ink stamp pad dried up many years ago. I keep them for sentimental reasons. I have been paperless for 20 years when I started using digital technology. Come on Japan, you are so high tech in many ways but also low tech in more too. Wake up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites