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Is it best to simply use only the first name (in my cousin's case, Rochelle/ロシイル), only the last name Stout (スタウト, I believe?)), or some sort of variation of initials? And if initials are okay, what sort of formatting is acceptable?

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  • What kind of hanko do you need? Do you want to make some formal contract with that hanko? Or you just want one as a souvenir?
    – naruto
    Jan 30 '18 at 2:12
  • It would primarily be used for opening a banking account.
    – Matchi
    Jan 30 '18 at 2:13
  • I'll drop a comment since I had to register a hanko recently. First, you can look here for lots of info. For a bank one, you can use pretty much whatever you want. If there are kanjis you like you can use them. For my bank hanko I have Chinese characters not even commonly used in Japanese. If you have to register one (unfortunately imho) you can only use either romaji or katakana and represent your name as it is on your password. If you are from a country using kanji you can use them of course.
    – Tommy
    Jan 30 '18 at 2:50
  • 私の名前、全部漢字なんだけど、銀行の通帳用に、苗字が漢字で名前がひらがなのハンコ持ってったら拒否されたことがあります・・・
    – Chocolate
    Jan 30 '18 at 4:11
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A hanko is supposed to be a unique signature, you can style it however you want as long as it's readable. Romaji, katakana or hirakana - but don't make up kanji unless you officially have that kanji registered as your by-name.

Read the part about Jitsu-in: http://www.city.kakamigahara.lg.jp/international/english/3101/003106.html

As a rule, you can only register your name as stated on your alien registration card. You can register a stamp of your family name, given name or both. The stamp should print your name in the alphabet, katakana or hiragana. You can register your name in kanji ONLY if you first register the kanji name as a by-name first. This can also be done at the citizens’ service department.

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  • 1
    I am not gonna down-vote but this is not entirely correct. I have hankos used for official documents (bank, house contracts, etc) that not only use kanji that not only pronunciation-wise have nothing to do with my real name, they are also quite unreadable in Japanese. You are correct only in case we are talking of a registered hanko but the question is not specific to that case.
    – Tommy
    Jan 30 '18 at 2:56
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    You're right @Tommy, I was actually going to write the same thing, but I've noticed when I inject my "own experience" into any answer in this community, I instantly get downvoted... So I just stuck to something I can back up that's not my own experience. What I wanted to write was, you can literally do whatever you want unless it isn't for something mega official. But that's too short to be a "decent" answer on here :-D
    – user5083
    Jan 30 '18 at 3:44
  • I upvoted you because you mention something that is very important to those who plan to do anything official in Japan. I would agree with @Tommy, however, that the distinction between personal use and official use ought to be made.
    – BJCUAI
    Jan 30 '18 at 3:47
  • Makes sense, but I think depending on the situations personal experiences matter as well. To stick to this example, I was told straight to my face by 2 employees of the city office that in case of foreigners (from non-kanji countries) can only use either romaji or katakana. I even argued that makes no sense to allow katakana but not kanji as my name on the passport (or zairyu card) has no katakana anyway (yeah I'm a kanji fan lol). I think this is kind of experience is more or less as reliable as wikipedia (assuming good faith of course). :)
    – Tommy
    Jan 30 '18 at 3:49
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In some cases is better ask to you city office which one is better, in my case the city office accept my hanko in katakana and i use that one for bank and everything that i need. In the case of my wife (half-japanese) she use the hanko with her family name in Kanji without any problem.

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My experience as an American living in Japan is that you are not expected to use hanko. My signature in the hanko space on documents (bank and other) was regularly accepted. (Yes, I did have to kind of squish my signature in, almost like initializing instead of signing.) I have lived and worked in Japan multiple times over the years, but have never had long-term resident status or citizenship, so your situation may be different. But if you ask, you may not have a need for a hanko.

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