Thursday, January 06, 2005


Inkan (click on this link for the laws and customs governing their use) are the personalized name seals used in Japan in lieu of signatures. On the far left is the one I used in my youth, prior to my ten year sojourn in North America. It uses both my first name and my surname in order to clearly distinguish it from my parents’ inkan but the first name was put first in Western fashion, which annoys me. When Japanese people live overseas, they put their first name first in accordance with local custom. Likewise, when I am in Japan I insist that my surname come first, in accordance with local custom. The middle inkan is the one commissioned for me by the Kazamaura Board of Education prior to my arrival. It has only my first name—whether by mistake or as deliberate discrimination I have no way of knowing. Moreover, it uses the modern transliteration of Luke (ルーク) rather than the Biblical transliteration from Greek (ルカ) that I grew up with. The other day I finally got around to registering the inkan on the far right as an official replacement (cost, ¥200). It is the last name portion of my English signature and cost me ¥4,000 to have made. The next step I will take is to register ルカ (Ruka) at the municipal office as the official transliteration of my first name. I hope that, perhaps, by thoroughly confusing the local populace regarding my first name, I can manipulate them into learning my last name.

One of my old "proof of inkan registration forms," together with the little green inkan registration booklet required in any administrative processing of my inkan.

In the few hours since registering my new inkan a little further research has revealed to me that the majority of people have both their last and first names on their registered inkan (called jitsuin). However, it is legal to register inkan with just the surname, just the first name, or a combination of either with other initials. For foreigners it is possible to register an inkan inscribed in either katakana or in the Latin (i.e. English) alphabet. For an Engrish explanation of the various types of inkan, look here.