• Shiori W

7 ways seals are used in the when conducting business in Japan

7 ways seals are used in the when conducting business in Japan

Learn the basics of using seals in Japan!

A Japanese seal, known as an “inkan” is mainly used to sign agreements or to confirm documents.

From a legal standpoint, is a seal required for all contracts in the Japanese business world?

Uhmm, well, to be honest, I’d like to make it clear that one can use a signature when dealing with legal documents.

However, you will have to use a seal instead of a signature in most business dealings in Japan.

The law “code of civil procedure” states that “If a private document has been signed by, or bears the seal of, the principal or an agent, it is presumed to be of authentic provenance.”

Despite this law, many companies in the Japanese business world will still require you to sign documents with a seal. People still sign contracts with seals, it is something that has been ingrained into Japanese culture.

This is because people think seals are more “official” than signatures. Depending on what kind of contract one is signing, different seals are sometimes used to sign different types of documents.

A seal can show the title of the person signing the document or simply the company name. Seals can give someone an impression of the person the seal represents.

In Japanese culture the concept of “和” which is read as “wa” and means harmony is considered to be very important. This concept represents putting the good of the group over everything else, meaning that conforming to maintain the peace is valued higher than individualism. This aspect of Japanese culture is well known among people outside of Japan, some people are even attracted to Japan partly because of this value.

In practice valuing harmony above all else can cause people to become complacent and go with the flow rather than trying to improve their understanding of something or increase their productivity.

Maintaining the peace means not questioning the use of seals and to just use it when your client uses it.

I’d recommend that one should have a “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” kind of mindset. Most companies in Japan have a long established way of doing things and company culture which they consider to be important. So despite laws saying signatures are ok, most companies still require seals. As of 2020 I, personally, haven’t seen any companies willing to sign a document with just a signature alone. However, the situation might change quickly due to the corona virus pandemic.

Legal reference : 民事訴訟法(第228条 4項) 4 私文書は、本人又はその代理人の署名又は押印があるときは、真正に成立したものと推定する。 - the original sentences in Japanese.


Do you want to know the proper way to use a seal in Japan?

Let’s learn through the following examples.

Keiyaku-in 契約印 (For business contracts and personal applications)

Generally, when applying for something or signing a contract there will be a circle next to where you write your name. You have to stamp your seal on the circle as shown below.

Which seal you use depends on what kind of document you are signing. For example, if you try to open a bank account, you will have to use your seal registered with the bank (Ginko-in) and a personal officially registered seal (Jitsu-in). If you apply for a commuter pass, you might need a seal that you usually use for accepting deliveries and such (Mitome-in).

Please make sure which seal is needed and be sure not to forget to stamp it!

In business, you might need to pay attention to what kind of seal you are using and where you are using it. When signing a contract you will, generally, have to use a “Corporate registered seal”, called a “Daihyo-in” in Japanese, in place of a signature. Make sure to check with your client which way you should stamp the seal as the way to do it is flexible.

Kei-in /Chigiri-in 契印 (For business contracts)

If your client asks you to affix a kei-in or chigiri-in when signing a contract, make sure to stamp them on the joint of two pages as shown above. A Kei-in or chigiri-in is are used to prove that the two pages are in the same contract or that they match.

Also, if the contract is bound in a book by tape, affix your seal one time on both the tape and the paper if you are required. Your client will stamp their seal next to yours as shown above.

Wari-in 割印 (For business contracts)

A wari-in is used to prove that two or more documents were signed at same time.

If you are required to affix a wari-in, place the documents over one another being sure that the subsequent documents are showing a bit and affix a seal over all of the pages like shown below.

Wari means “divided” in English. Affixing a wari-in shows that the documents were signed by both you and your client.

Keshi-in 消印 (used to prove a stamp has been used.)

Keshi means delete/erase in English. A keshi-in is placed on a “Revenue-stamp”, called “Shunyu-inshi” in Japanese, so that the stamp cannot be reused. You can buy a shunyu-inshi at a post office. These stamps will sometimes be required to be placed on contracts or other documents. As shown below, when placing a keshi-in you affix the seal over bother the paper and a little over the revenue stamp.

Teisei-in 訂正印 (used to correct a typo)

Teisei means “correction or revision” in English. People affix a teisei-in when making corrections or revisions on official documents or forms.

I, personally, haven’t used a teisei-in to correct anything on a document in business, because usually we draw up a draft and confirm that first. Also after signing a contract, if you or your client wish to make any changes or add something in, usually a memorandum, “Oboegaki” in Japanese, is drawn up separately from the original contract. So, I think teisei-in are used more for personal applications rather than big contracts. If you are required to put affix a teisei-in, please follow the following directions.

1 When you wish to make a correction on a document, first cross out the word or portion you wish to correct with two horizontal lines as shown in the example above. Then place your seal on the word over the two horizontal lines. Write the correction next to the crossed out word.

2 For business contracts, the company might ask you to note how many words were added or erased. Please confirm with them where and how you should note this if required to do so. Every single correction usually doesn't need to have the extra note but I’d recommend checking with your client’s legal department about their way of doing things.

Sute-in 捨印 (For business contracts)

Sute comes from the word “Suteru” in Japanese which means to throw away or abandon.

A sute-in is used to confirm that a correction or revision is valid. You can leave an additional seal to be used for updates in the future by your client.

These days I haven’t seen a sute-in much because it can be risky if the client takes advantage of it an changes the contract.

It does depend on what your client wants though. I’d recommend not putting on a contract if it is not necessary. If you are required to leave a sute-in, please confirm the reason with your lawyer.

Tome-in 止印 (For business contracts)

Tome means to “stop something” in English. A tome-in is placed at the end of the last sentence in a document if there is a lot of space left over. It proves that the details of the contract only go to that point so that nothing else can be added in after the contract has been signed.

Instead of using tome-in, companies often add “以下、余白”( there are no extra words from here on.) to prohibit adding extra items later.

Seals are really important for Japanese business, and they are still used a lot in Japan and you need one even if a signature holds the same legal power in Japan. This is because of how Japanese people communicate and how agreements are made and agreed upon.

How was today’s tip?

Did you learn anything new?

If you have something that you would like to know more about or another aspect of Japanese business culture that you would like to learn about, please let me know!

I will share with you guys!