Hanko seals made headlines like never before in recent months, as administrative reform minister Taro Kono made it his priority to do away with the traditional stamps, used to approve official paperwork, which are as ubiquitous in Japan as signatures elsewhere.

Kono has been targeting the nation's reliance on cheap, ready-made hanko seals, often ridiculed by foreign media outlets as a symbol of Japan’s outdated customs in an age of widespread digital signature use.

But with hand-carved, high-quality hanko made by artisans considered virtually impossible to counterfeit, hanko culture — which has existed in Japan for over a millennium — is likely to endure.