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    Custom Hanko Artwork

    By thomas | June 4, 2008

    This tip won’t save you time or money, but it is pretty cool. Have you ever wanted your own personal seal (判子 hanko)? Maybe you have one already, but you want a cooler custom-designed hanko? You can get your own custom-designed hanko at (read “hana-mama”).

    After our son was born, my wife thought it would be fun to get him his own hanko. She did some searching and found, which is a father/daughter hanko-making team that specializes in custom hanko artwork. They had a forum where you could request a design for any picture you wanted so we decided to give it a shot. My family is originally from Sweden, so we tried to think of some design that would express our son’s Swedish heritage. We needed something to symbolize Sweden and yet be simple enough that it would show up well on a small rubber stamp. We chose the Dala Horse. We posted this picture on the request forum:

    Dala Horse Stock Photo

    They said that it may take up to a month to get a reply (depending on how busy they are), and during our wait my wife and I decided that we would also like to get our own Dala Horse hankos. So we added a comment to our post saying we wanted three and listing our names. Not long after, we got a reply with this photo attached:

    Dala Horse Hanko

    冬馬子 is my name in Kanji (とうます). One cool thing about being a foreigner in Japan is that you can choose your own kanjis. I actually chose this combination as a joke back when I was a university student in Japan. Having 馬 (horse) in your name is a little silly and the 子 makes it look like a girl name. For whatever reason, it stuck so I still use it. It’s good for getting laughs at the elementary school.

    Anyway, looking at the sample, we liked the Dala Horse design right away. Next we had to finalize some details about our order (wood color, stamp size, case) and then pay by bank transfer (credit card is also possible). Once they received our money, we moved on to the next step, which is tweaking the hanko design to get it just how we want it.

    After paying, this was the first set of samples we received (click to enlarge):

    Dala Horse Hanko

    My last name isn’t really “Helmut”. The designer just guessed based on the katakana to show us how romaji would look on our hankos. We didn’t really dig the romaji, so in our reply we told her to ax them. We said we liked the bigger horse style with the names written in one vertical line. We weren’t sure about the font yet. The next set of samples we got was this (click to enlarge):

    Dala Horse Hanko

    Ooh! Awesome! We like the more angular font better than the cursive one. Just for fun, can we see a right-facing horse for Kazuko? (click to enlarge):

    Dala Horse Hanko

    Glad we could see it, but we like the left-facing one better. For my own, I like the right-facing Dala Horse. We decided that we wanted Kazuko(A), Thomas(A) and Noah(B). Final answer? Yes. One last look (click to enlarge):

    Dala Horse Hanko

    And within a week, we got them in the mail!

    Stamped on the envelope:

    Dala Horse Hanko

    Here they are with their nifty cases:

    Dala Horse Hanko

    Poorly-focused attempt at a closeup shot:

    Dala Horse Hanko

    Daddy, my new hanko matches my jammies!

    Dala Horse Hanko

    There’s just something awesome about having a Dala Horse hanko. We may be the only people in the world who have them.

    Our hankos came out to 7035 yen a piece, which isn’t cheap, but we got fancy cases and a large size stamp face. You could forgo the case and get a smaller stamp and make it under 5000 yen. That’s not unreasonable for a personalized, custom-made, hand-carved hanko. What a cool souvenir for your stay in Japan!

    You will need some Japanese (or a Japanese-speaking friend) to communicate your needs to hanamama. If you have an idea you’d like to try, post a message on their request forum with a picture and the name you want on your hanko.

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    Topics: Japanese Services | 6 Comments »Trackback

    6 Responses to “Custom Hanko Artwork”

    1. Says:
      June 4th, 2008 at 7:58 am

      Custom Hanko Artwork |…

      Ever wanted your own personal seal (hanko)? How about a hanko where you are in complete control of the design? How about a hanko with custom artwork on it? Check out this article to find out how. Makes an awesome souvenir!…

    2. Deas Says:
      June 4th, 2008 at 11:22 am

      How cool! This is a great suggestion. I think I’ll look into it for gift-purposes.

    3. billywest Says:
      June 5th, 2008 at 5:43 pm

      Wouldn’t want one for myself, but agree with Deas; This would be a great gift.

    4. Nina Says:
      June 9th, 2008 at 9:48 am

      This is actually really awesome! I never knew you could put pictures on a hanko. Can you still use it for legal documents? Is it valid?

    5. Anna Hamakoji Says:
      August 17th, 2008 at 6:12 am

      I’ve been reading your blog. Didn’t know you came from good old sweden……
      If you have time lok at our swedish flower shop.
      Anna H.

    6. Kevin Flint Says:
      November 17th, 2009 at 8:21 am

      Hi I would very much like a Hanko done! I do not know anyone that can translate for me. I only need a very simple name done. though it would be nice to also have my dojo logo done as well.

      The basic kanji I would need is JU AIKI OSHO. I have the logo and the kanji sampled in my photos on my myspace.

      Please let me know if you can help.

      Thank you for your time and effort in this matter.