What Is an Inkan Shomeisho? Why Do I Need One?
From opening bank accounts to registering companies and even in daily personal affairs, the inkan shomeisho is a piece of paper used to verify your personal seal (hanko) in a wide array of transactions.
But wait—weren’t hanko abolished? Not yet and definitely not for high-value transactions.
Here’s the quickest guide to get you up to speed fast.
What is an inkan shomeisho?
An inkan shomeisho (印鑑 証明書) is a Japanese term that means a "Certificate of Seal Registration."
In Japan, an inkan refers to the impression of one’s hanko, a personal stamp that is often used in place of a signature in personal and business transactions.
The inkan shomeisho is an official document that verifies the registration of an individual's inkan with the local government office.
This certificate is similar to getting your signature notarized, which helps prove the authenticity of the transaction you’ll be using your signature for.
Why do I need an inkan shomeisho?
In Japan, there are a number of times you’ll be required to provide an inkan shomeisho.
For example, the following are situations when you’ll be required to show a certificate of seal registration.
Opening a bank account—not all banks require this anymore, but some still do
Obtaining a loan or co-signing on a loan
Registering your company
Signing a lease
Other high-value transactions
How do I get an inkan shomeisho?
Below is a very simplified step-by-step of the process. For the full walkthrough of how to register your hanko, see this guide.
First, you’ll need a hanko (personal seal). Purchase or order a hanko, which is your name equivalent in a stamp form.
Next, take your personal stamp (hanko) and ID (My Number card, residence card, etc.) to the ward office/city hall and get it registered.
Ask city office staff for a seal registration application form (印鑑 登録 申請書 = inkantouroku shinsei sho).
Fill out the form with your personal information and place an impression of your seal in the designated place.
You’ll be issued a seal registration card (印鑑 登録 証明書 = inkan toroku shomeisho) for you to keep, which verifies that your stamp has been registered with the local city office.
Once you have your seal registration card, show the card to the city office and ask for city office staff to issue you a seal registration certificate (印鑑証明書 = inkan shomeisho). You’ll use the inkan shomeisho for certain high-value transactions that require proof that your hanko is legit.
Some wards allow you to get these seal registration certificates issued at the local convenience store's multi-purpose copy machine. But this is only if your stamp has been previously registered at the local city office.
To find out if your ward has a convenience store tie-in service where you can get a seal registration certificate issued, go here.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the difference between an inkan and a hanko?
Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? In this case, the hanko comes first, as the hanko (seal) is necessary to create the inkan (seal impression).
The difference between the two is that the hanko is the seal, whereas the inkan refers to the imprint the hanko leaves when pressed onto paper.
What is a jitsu in?
A jitsuin refers to a registered seal (hanko) after you've registered it at the city office and have completed the inkan toroku shomeisho (hanko registration) process.
What is a shachihatta?
Other forms of hanko come with ink pads, but the shachihatta refers to a type of self-inking seal. Because this type of seal is easy to mass produce, the city office will not issue you a seal registration card for a shachihatta-type of hanko.
Can I use my signature instead of a hanko?
If you don't have a hanko and you want to use your signature for high-value transactions (purchasing real estate, registering a company, etc.), you would need to get your signature notarized at your country's consulate. E.g., the US Embassy.
Here's info from the US Embassy in Japan on the form you'll need to fill out when getting your signature notarized: https://jp. usembassy.gov/services/ notarials/
The "Signature Certificate" the US Embassy issues would then take the place of the inkan shomeisho in high-value transactions if/when you are asked for it.
Having an inkan shomeisho is a vital aspect of navigating official procedures in Japan, ensuring authenticity during important transactions.