Hanko Japanese Stamps used as signatures

I used to walk by this display case of hanko stamps every day when I lived in Tokyo.I cannot recommend enough that one should live at least one year abroad.  Living here in the U.S. there is no sense of just how isolated things are, especially if you do not live in a big city like New York or San Francisco.  If you are a curious person and like to explore, then living abroad is a must.  One thing I discovered while living in Japan is that official documents need to be stamped using the person's family hanko stamp much more than they actually need to be signed to become official documents.  Think about how important one's signature is here in the U.S.  Not so in Japan.  When I first setup things like a bank account, they asked me for my stamp.  I of course did not have one.  Eventually a friend gave me my own with an approximation of how my name sounds in Kanji characters (see below photo).  I even had one with just "Jason" on the end of it which I used sometimes!

My own hanko stamp given to me by a Japanese friendThere are specialty shops just for hanko stamps.  There are a lot of such specialty shops along the streets of Tokyo for many things that we just do not have in the U.S.  Often they are very tiny shops, not much larger than walk-in closet sized.  I always found them super interesting and kind of mysterious.  The hanko stamps in the top image were in a display case out front of a hanko shop on a street I lived on for four years.  I walked by them every day and would always peek inside the small shop to see the craftsman as his workbench.  It just occurred to me now that I wish I had photographed the shop itself too!