Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Japanese Hanko

Sonia met me in Kamakura after my English on Friday afternoon. We had an appointment at a Kamakura Hanko to make our own personal Japanese Hanko.

A Japanese Hanko is a personalized stamp used instead of a signature. Just like your signature, the Hanko is hand drawn and includes at least part of your name in kanji. Each Hanko is original, like a signature, and then registered with the city for official authenticity.

The first step for designing your personalized Hanko is selecting the kanji that represents your name. I used the drawing Miki made for me last year when she had my name engraved on my sushi knife.

Sonia selected her kanji from the book the store provided.

The owner of the store printed the kanji for us and then we drew (traced) it on a piece of paper.

Tracing was trickier than you might think. Especially, after the owner took out the super fancy calligraphy pens. I clearly had no clue how to use the pens. He gave me a quick lesson after he watched me use it like a paintbrush!

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We left our masterpieces at the store to be engraved on our Hanko stamper. We both selected the cute kokeshi dolls for our stampers.

We had a couple hours to wait for our Hanko to be carved. We made good use of our time.

We returned to the shop a couple hours later to collect our Hanko.

There was a little bit of a “lost in translation” moment when we were picking up our Hanko. We both thought we selected this kokeshi stamp with a stand.

We liked the stand the kokeshi was placed in because it made a nice souvenir and conversation piece. The other option is keeping the Hanko in a case. In my opinion, a case would just get lost in a draw.

Well, to our surprise and disappointment, the kokeshi stamp we selected was the larger stamp (more official) and did not come with a stand. It came with a case. Sigh.

We attempted to explain we wanted the stand. There was a lot of back and forth and promises to make phone calls to the manufacturer of the kokeshi stamp to inquire about having a stand specially made for the larger sized kokeshi stamp. All we can do is just wait and see. And keep our fingers crossed. Despite not having the stand, I do love my personalized Hanko. And even as frustrated as I was, I couldn’t help but laugh. Even after almost two years of living in Japan, I still have “lost in translation” moments.

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2 Comments

  1. Eileen Austin

    So cool!

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