I heard that my foreign acquaintance registered their personal seal with their name in kanji, but when I said at the ward office that I wanted to register my kanji personal seal, I was told that unless my name on the seal was in the alphabet, I wouldn't be able to register it. Why can't I register a kanji seal?
The personal seal registration system (inkan tōroku shōmei seido / 印鑑登録証明制度) is a system for certifying that the personal seal (inkan / 印鑑, also referred to as jitsuin / 実印) that one uses on contracts and other important documents is, indeed, your own.
The system is not governed by any law, but rather based on ordinances and regulations adopted by each municipality.
Under the City of Nagoya's inkan regulations, persons eligible to register an inkan are those registered on the City of Nagoya Basic Resident Register, other than persons under 15 years of age and adult wards. To register an inkan, you must apply to the local government office of the municipality in which you reside.
Characters or letters that can be registered are those included in one's full name (shimei / 氏名), surname (uji / 氏), given name (mei / 名), or maiden name (kyūuji / 旧氏), or a combination of some of the characters or letters in one's family name, given name or maiden name (although it may not be possible to register some combinations).
In the case of foreign residents, in addition to one's name as registered on the Resident Register (jūminhyō / 住民票), i.e. your name as inscribed on your Resident Card (zairyū kado / 在留カード) or Special Permanent Resident Certificate, it is sometimes possible to register an alias or nickname (tsūshōmei / 通称名) as recorded on your Resident Register entry, or the katakana rendering or simplified Chinese rendering of your name as recorded on the Resident Register.
If you do not have a kanji rendering of your name recorded on your Resident Register, you will not be able to register an inkan with kanji. To register an inkan with kanji, you will need to request at the counter of your local municipal government office to have your kanji alias recorded on your Resident Register. In order to have your kanji alias recorded on your Resident Register, you will need to provide evidence that you use the alias in your daily social activities, and have been using it for around one year.
This explanation has used the City of Nagoya as an example, but as the inkan registration system is subject to local regulations of each municipality, the conditions of the actual registration are determined by your local government. Please inquire at your local government office for more details.
Nagoya International Center Civic Advisory Service for Foreign Residents
A free civic advisory service for foreign residents is available in person or by telephone at the Information Counter. A dedicated member of staff provides consultations on issues encountered by foreign residents in their day to day lives, in 9 languages.
For more information on the Civic Advisory Service (including service times and languages, and other free consultations for foreign residents, click here.
See the Living Information section for more Living Q & A articles.