For a native speaker, with regard to legal documents, are 判子 and 署名 becoming substitutable? Japan likes to westernize, so are people beginning to just sign stuff by hand?

Myself a non-native, I had a choice. HR made me a 判子 to use for work documents. For other documents like apartment, bank account, etc. I just signed them.

A pro-translator wrote:


I think that is a fail. That seems a good way to express a refusal to agree to the final terms of a legal document but isn't the meaning murky? Is this a
(1) flat-out refusal of the terms,
(2) or an agreement to the terms, but refusal to use a signature. He / she wants to use a hanko.

In fact, digital signatures have already changed how we think of signatures. Surely, the legal implications "署名" and "判子" is becoming unclear.

  • Anecdotal but as a foreigner, all public services that I have encountered allowed me to sign over the "hanko" form field.
    – Leo
    Jul 11, 2016 at 1:50
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about the Japanese language.
    – Flaw
    Jul 11, 2016 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


Not yet. Hanko is still required for LOTS of documents in both public and private sectors. I guess, for most of the cases, hanko is not legally required and it's just a common practice for those who want documents to feel relieved just like other 念のため or 一応 stuff.

It's true that certain people don't like hanko culture. But it's not because we like to westerize as you say, but because hanko culture often irritates us especially when a person at a city office counter tells you to go back home to bring your hanko and make a line and wait another 30 min, or when you receive a retured contract document with a letter which says "your hanko is not properly stamped".

A young mayor of Chiba city is one of those and he promised to reduce hanko-required documents three years ago when he elected as a mayor. One year later, Chiba city reduced 3200 hanko-required documents to 1000.

You (and Leo) might go through many nonlegally hanko requirements with signature because you are gaijin. I have never been allowed to substitute hanko with signature in documents for the public sector because they think it's 当たり前 for me to have a hanko.

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