A group of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is demanding that Japan’s traditional hanko seal system be maintained, despite calls for scrapping it to help promote teleworking amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The group working to preserve Japan’s seal system and culture submitted a request to LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida on June 19.

The request said that the recent accusations that the hanko system is preventing the wider use of teleworking amid the coronavirus crisis are “ungrounded bashing” of the system.

The legal force of signing a name and affixing a seal is equal to a signature, it said.

“Document approval using paper and workers’ need to go to the office to gain approval” — not the hanko system — are the main reason for the slow spread of teleworking, the group said in defense of the tradition.

The lawmakers then requested the preservation of the hanko system, calling it “beneficial for Japanese people.”

Meanwhile, the group also called for making it possible to complete administrative procedures such as seal registrations online.

Hanko are widely used in Japan for signing contracts, business transactions and administrative procedures. In particular, many workers have been forced to commute to their offices because of a reliance on hard-copy paperwork for key contracts and proposals, and the need for much of this to be stamped with a traditional seal.

The practice is also seen as preventing telecommuting from being fully introduced at companies despite the pandemic.

A custom originally imported from China over a thousand years ago, the use of hanko was formalized by Japan’s modern government in the mid-1800s, with citizens required to legally register one with their name to use on important papers and documents.

In business, they can be used on virtually everything, from contracts to applications and even just to show that everybody in an office has seen a particular memo.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.