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  • The History of Hanko: A Guide to Japan’s Ink Seals

    The History of Hanko: A Guide to Japan’s Ink Seals Until 30 June 2021

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    • Dates 11 October 2019, 12:00AM - 30 June 2021, 11:59PM
    • Event Details When Was the First Hanko Used, and Why?

      The culture of using seals dates back to 5th millennium BC Mesopotamia. It reached Japan by AD 57 — though it’s likely it was even earlier — but there is historical evidence from at least that year. After the Taiho Code (the administrative and penal code of the Taiho era) in 701, the Imperial family began using hanko for important contracts. Each emperor has a specific seal created especially for them, so as Japan crossed over from the Heisei era into the Reiwa era in 2019, the new emperor accepted his unique personal seal.

      The aristocracy started getting seals made by the late Nara period, around 750, and samurai got into the game during the Kamakura period and beyond. It wasn’t until the Meiji Period (1868-1912) that the hanko became widely used by Japanese nationals across the country. The reason was a law that enforced a unified national system of certification, which finally allowed the general public to use their own personalized hanko.

      The hanko has now become a cultural item passed down from generation to generation, and is an important item for Japanese people to confirm their “will” and “responsibility” in everything that’s signed between the government, corporations and individuals.

      Want to Get Your Own Hanko?

      Kamakura Hanko stocks a variation of hanko — from simple to sumptuous — and accompanying accessories to suit any need. They can make a fully customized piece using traditional craftsmanship, or you can choose from many of the ready-made ones available. For a truly unique hanko, join a Kamakura Hanko workshop to make your own.

      For more information, visit:

      Coming soon: more uses for hanko and hanko etiquette!
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