Photo: TDM Telework Committee
lifestyle

Tokyo temple holds funeral for personal seals

11 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Religion in Japan is a mix of Buddhist and Shinto traditions, so there’s some overlap between going to temples and shrines to offer prayers and ask for blessings. One clear division, though, is that Buddhist temples handle funerals, and so on Oct 19, a memorial service was held at Zenkokuji Temple in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka neighborhood.

The attendees, however, were not gathered to say goodbye to family members or friends, however, but to their personal seals.

Personal seals, called hanko or inkan in Japanese, are circular stamps used in place of a signature. Even now, many contracts in Japan aren’t considered legally binding until both parties stamp a hard copy of the document with their seal, and they’re also commonly used internally in Japanese offices to show approval or confirmation of document contents.

The personal seal funeral was organized by the TDM Telework Committee, a union of roughly 30 Japanese companies promoting changes to business norms to make remote work more feasible for Japanese professionals. While many people in Japan have transitioned to working from home since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not at all unusual to be called into the office solely because your seal is required on a piece of paper. TDM sees this as both inefficient and an unnecessary health risk, and many of its member companies offer discounts to clients who’re willing to switch to digital contracts.

On the other hand, the funeral service, to which three IT companies sent representatives, sought to address the cultural/emotional attachment some may feel to the use of personal seals. As a long-respected aspect of Japanese business culture, and also a symbol of the bearer him or herself, many are reluctant to simply throw their personal seal away, and so the Zenkokuji memorial, which included the chanting of sutras by a monk, was a way to part with their seals while giving them the dignity they deserve.

The funeral comes on the heels of a new push from the Japanese government to phase out personal seals, fax machines, and other vestiges of the physical media-dependent workplace. However, TDM head Fumihiro Naganuma wanted to make it clear that he’s not trying to abolish personal seals entirely, saying “I believe the personal seal itself is an important aspect of culture, so they should not be simply thrown away. Instead, we should reevaluate whether or not they are truly necessary. The important thing is for all of us to rethink what may be pointless parts of our business processes.”

It’s also worth noting that the funeral ceremony was specifically for office-use personal seals, and not a call for people to throw out their personal-use personal seals, so if you recently bought a Pikachu or Gundam hanko for yourself, you should still have plenty of chances to use it.

Sources: NHK News Web, FNN Prime Online, TDM Telework Committee Facebook page

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Three main reasons why fewer and fewer Japanese people are having funerals

-- Keep wishing for the end of coronavirus with sickness-preventing yokai signature seals

-- Japanese supermarket’s funeral ad sparks controversy, debate over “blasphemy”

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
Login to comment

That's just plain dumb.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

That's just plain dumb.

Oh its beyond that. Plain dumb would have to get on a jet to catch up to this crap.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The first thing I thought of when I read this article was the Festival of Broken Needles, which I looked up and now know is called Hari-Kuyō. I'll quote from the Wiki article linked below.

Hari-Kuyō began four hundred years ago as a way for housekeepers and professional needle-workers to acknowledge their work over the past years and respect their tools. In the animist traditions, items as well as humans, animals, plants, and objects are considered to have souls. This festival acknowledged the good given to people by their tools. Practitioners went to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to thank their broken needles for their help and service. This is in keeping with the philosophy of "not wasting" or "paying honor to the small things" exemplified in the concept of mottainai.

It seems to me that to have a service of appreciation for hanko, an essential article for Japanese people with a history going back for two millennia, fits into the same tradition of respect for the small but useful things in people's lives. I wouldn't call that "dumb", and it does no-one any harm. To me it's one of the ways that Japan differentiates itself from other cultures, and cultural differences like these should be appreciated and not derided.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hari-Kuy%C5%8D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The hanko is coming to an end due to Covid-19, online and home working. I will keep my one going which I use on my paintings.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The funeral comes on the heels of a new push from the Japanese government to phase out personal seals, fax machines, and other vestiges of the physical media-dependent workplace. 

I do want to give credit where its due. Good on the J-Gov for trying to phase out the hanko. It is nice, but an archaic thing that needs to be laid to rest. (although a funeral is just pure insane)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

SO people don't want to go to the office to stamp as it might be a covid health risk but they'll go to a funeral for their stamp......logical.....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The personal seal funeral was organized by the TDM Telework Committee

So it's basically a publicity stunt by an organization offering help with teleworking.

The story says the temple is Buddhist, but I wonder what Buddhists think of funeral rites being given to a manufactured and inanimate object. Do inanimate objects have a spiritual path to Enlightenment? Can your company hanko reach Nirvana?

(Shinto sees spirits in everything, so I would find their participation easier to understand)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

TrevorPeace

That's just plain dumb.

How is a goodbye ceremony dumb?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's just plain dumb.

Oh its beyond that. Plain dumb would have to get on a jet to catch up to this crap.

It's Japan's religion, it's Japan's culture, Like it or not..

Some simple-minded people will never understand..

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It's Japan's religion, it's Japan's culture, Like it or not..

What religion is that?? Hankoism??

Some simple-minded people will never understand..

You are supporting a funeral for a rubber stamp and I'M SIMPLE-MINDED??!!

LOL!!!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

SO people don't want to go to the office to stamp as it might be a covid health risk but they'll go to a funeral for their stamp......logical.....

as Kentaro will tell you, its Japan's logic

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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