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The Yamanashi Prefectural Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved a written statement demanding that the use of hanko personal seals for authorizing documents be maintained, in a challenge to recent calls to scrap them to promote the digitalization of society.

The assembly voiced its opposition to ending the use of personal seals from the standpoint of protecting local businesses, as the prefecture is known for its hand-carved hanko, which are designated as a traditional craft of the country.

The hanko system stands as “a symbol of Japan,” the statement said. The traditional use of personal seals “is not something that should be rejected, and it can coexist with the digitalization of procedures.”

The statement said that the hanko system has been undeservedly pilloried for blocking efforts to promote remote working.

The assembly called on the central government to make efforts to protect hanko-makers from reputational damage and help them expand sales channels, including in foreign countries.

Specifically, the statement called for adequate measures to prevent people having a false perception that hanko seals are completely unnecessary.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which promotes the digitalization of government as one of its key policy pillars, is stepping up efforts to scrap the use of hanko seals in administrative procedures, attracting support from many local governments.

“We appreciate the prefectural assembly for speaking up for the local industry, which has a small voice,” an official at an association of hanko seal-makers in Yamanashi. “We want the state to take our calls seriously,” the official said.

On Sept. 29, Yamanashi Gov. Kotaro Nagasaki said that it is frustrating that wrong perceptions of hanko are spreading. He indicated his intention to ask Taro Kono, administrative reform minister who is in charge of digitalization, for a meeting.

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