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For the chop

Are Japan’s ubiquitous personal seals endangered?

The government is trying to do away with th小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网e paperwork they adorn

DUST SETTLES小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网 over the shelves in Fujio Kawasaki’s shop. Customers once sought out this corner of Tokyo for quality hanko, the personal seals Japanese use as sig珍娜詹姆森natures. Among the goods on display is a s小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网eal carved from elephant tusk, a relic from a bygone era. N名模夫人obody will fork out 80,000 ($720) for such items these days, says Mr Kawasaki. Now he fears the government will force him out of business altogether.

小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网
末世之懒人求生规律

Hanko are a fea虚漂浮ture 桃瘾of life in Japan. Every adult—even the emperor—has one.深圳减字科技有限公司 They are required to buy a car, rent an apartmen德国汉堡气候t or get married. Managers use them to sign off on the endless faxes, memos and other antiquated docum三国之西州制霸ents that continue to circulate in offices.

All this paperwork makes Japanese offices among the least超级小神农吴邪 efficient in the rich 快穿之娇花world. Dogged by low productivity and hence poor pro郭震洲自首fitability, Japan’s three biggest banks have begun allowing cus黄播tomers to open accounts without hanko. Most Japanese will soon be pressing fingers to screens instead of wood to paper, predicts Noriaki Maru跟随3yama, president of an online bank. Local governments are starting to process transactions electronically, too. The Digital First荀勖 Bill, currently zipping through parliament, seeks to do away with yet more forms and stamps.

The rationale for the legislation is simple and sound, argues Takuya Hirai, minister o小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网f science and technology. Japanese people waste far too much time 小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网filling in forms, he says; the shrinking population can no longer afford to maintain this bloated paper-based bureaucracy. Mr Hirai has little sympathy for th最新撸丝片e sentimental national attachment to personal seals.

The hanko industry has reacted with an emotional letter, pleading with Mr Hirai to scrap his plans. The bill threatens t璐丹he livelihood of over 10,000 seal shops like Mr Kawasaki’s, it ar帝国少女gues. Hanko are far superior to “Western-style signatures”, the letter says, because bosses can save time by entrusting their seals to proxies, who can then approve documents on their behalf. “We are proud of how this system contributed to Japan’s post-war economic growth,” it concludes. Mr Kawasaki thinks the government’s effort to diminish paperwork is a plot to do away with the sort of paper-trails that have been used to hold it to account in several recent scandals.

Many Japanese seem ready to let go, however. The use of signatures had been spreading even be单男fore the government got involved. Mr Kawasaki’s shop is more than 80 years old. His father founded it. But it will not survive to the next generation, Mr Kawasaki laments.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline "For the chop"(Mar 21st 2019)

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小宝贝,「经济学人」Personal seals in Japan,宝格丽官网 经济学人 魏斯晴 经济学
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