What Is Japanese Hanko?

JJapanese hanko, highly regarded overseas under the label COOL JAPAN, now hold a prominent position. This page provides a comprehensive break down of the historical context of hanko, which originated in Japan and developed into a unique cultural phenomenon.

The Origin of Hanko: From Where Did It Arise? Japan stands as the sole country in the world where the use of seals remains a formal system. As a result, hanko is often considered a distinct Japanese culture. However, did you know that the birthplace of hanko traces back to ancient Mesopotamia?

Birth of the Seal: The Mesopotamian CivilizationThe origins of hanko date back over 7,000 years to the Mesopotamian civilization. Seals that were born in the region corresponding to present-day Iraq made their way from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Greece, and eventually to Rome. Multiple references to seals appear in the Old Testament, and seals spread across Europe along with Christianity.

Expansion into Asia: Beyond the Silk Road to ChinaSeals that flourished in the West found their way to China through the Silk Road. Subsequently, Emperor Qin Shi Huang established Asia's first "official seal system." The use of seals as a means to demonstrate authority and status is quite characteristic of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Crossing Vast Oceans to Reach Japan: Blossoming of Japanese Seal CultureSeals first arrived in Japan during the Later Han Dynasty of China. The famous gold seal "King of Na Gold Seal," known as one of Japan's oldest surviving seals, was a gift from the Han Emperor.

Over time, during the Nara period and beyond, Japan developed its own unique seal culture. With the emergence of "private seals," or personal hanko, the variety of seals expanded, and during this era, seals took on artistic significance. The foundation of the present-day seal registration system was established by the Meiji government. However, during this period, not everyone could write. Therefore, even common citizens who couldn't personally sign documents could prove their identity by using a registered personal seal, leading to the popularization of seals among the general populace.

At FancoJapan, due to the high number of inquiries from overseas about Japan's distinctive culture, we craft handmade hanko from images. We aim to deliver high-quality, Made In Japan hanko to people around the world.

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