Dec 2009 050

In many Asian cultures, a name stamp or seal is often used instead of a signature.  Here in Japan, name stamps are called hanko and are used in business to signify acknowledgment or ownership.  As a foreigner, I have had only a few opportunities to use my name stamp for attendance paperwork at the Japanese school where I work, but enjoy adding my mark at then end of a note to friends and family back home.

Dec 2009 046

A few weeks ago, I visited Hanko 21 to purchase as stamp as a gift.  If your name is of Chinese or Japanese descent, you can have a hanko written in kanji.  You may also be able to have your name in kanji if your name is easily translated into kanji.  For example, the hanko I purchased was for a friend named Dawn, which is translated to asahi, meaning morning day sun in kanji.  Otherwise, your name will have to be in katakana, the Japanese writing used for all foreign words.

Dec 2009 043
Once you determine how your name will be written, the staff at Hanko 21 will advise you on the stylistic options (font), as well as the diameter required for your stamp.  My katakana hanko is slightly wider than Dawn’s kanji hanko.  The length of name will also determine the diameter of your stamp.  Production is usually quick – mine was ready in one day and cost around $25.

Dec 2009 042

Hanko 21

Hours: Monday through Friday 0900 – 1900, Saturday 1000 – 1800. Closed Sundays and Japanese holidays.

Phone: 098-930-0902

Address: 2-10-8 Uechi 上地 2-10-8 Okinawa 沖縄市

GPS Coordinates: 26.3344266, 127.8055832

Location: Route 330. From Kadena Gate 2, continue straight and turn right onto Route 330. Hanko 21 is approximately 2 km down on the right side.  (Four Seasons restaurant is a few stores down on the left.) You will turn right at the light marked Sonada North.  There are several pay parking areas or street parking further down the road.


  1. I tried to have one made at a little stationary store out gate 2. I ended up with an English stamp of my name. I am so glad you all mentioned to have a Japanese friend help you out. Thanks for posting this information!!

  2. I think it’s important to understand that mis-translated souveniers are common around military bases. I’d be willing to bet money that many of the objects with Japanese writing sitting in military family homes doesn’t really say what they think it says. The vendors are counting on the fact that most military members and their families can barely speak Japanese, let alone read and write it. They make a fortune from selling products to a crowd that is scrambling to collect as many collectibles from Okinawa as they can before it’s time to pcs outta here!

  3. It’s actually katakana with a “K,” not a “G”. I don’t know if katagana means anything else or not. But, I thought the word looked different than what I had seen before so I looked it up. But, thanks for the post on the stamps. That’s definitely a cool idea.

  4. Definately a good idea to work with a Japanese friend first. I’m sorry for Joanna’s friend’s experience. The friend who helped me is bilingual and was able to converse with the sales associate to pick the right kanji and the length of the sounds for my name in katagana.

  5. Joanna’s comment is a good reason to work with a Japanese friend first before ordering and then take the kanji you want into the store. My boys have Japanese middle names, but I picked them off a Baby Names website — so they have the right sound but I don’t have kanji for them. When I was at the Foster Bazaar and tried to get their names written on Christmas ornaments it was very confusing because there are tons of ways to write one or two sounds. So, I would love my kids to have hanko’s — but will get help from my Japanese friend first, I think!

  6. A good friend of mine had one of these stamps custom made with her name, thinking it would be a great way to sign her Christmas cards. Her Japanese friends were really confused- The kanji imprint on the hanko didn’t mean anything at all. She paid $75 for the hanko and was very upset.