Japanese words with the prefix “itai” (meaning “painful” or simply “ouch”) have become more common in recent years as otaku culture spreads into new realms of weirdness and fandom.
Cars decorated with anime and videogame character designs to the point that they’re painful to look at by anyone but die-hard fans, and even Japan’s Self Defence Force’s pimped out tank-busting helicopter have given rise to the words ita-sha and ita-heli, respectively.
Most of these projects are done for the sheer fun of it, and few nerds carry their hobbies into their work or professional lives, but with the arrival of these new ita-in (lit. “painful stamp”), all that could change, with anime fans doing anything from opening a bank account to signing a lease on an apartment with their personalised name-stamp featuring a custom-made moe-inspired character design…
Personal name-stamps, known as inkan or hanko in Japan, are used everywhere from signing for a parcel delivery to registering a marriage at city hall. Although many businesses now recognise signatures as legally binding, the vast majority of both legal and non-legal paperwork requires a person to have their own officially registered name stamp.
When I moved from Fukushima to the city, I took an afternoon off work to open a new bank account (they’re closed on weekends and often after 5 p.m.) since my old bank only had ATMs in northwest Japan. After spending around half an hour filling out paperwork at the bank, I realised that I’d left my inkan at home in a drawer. I presented the completed forms to clerk, along with my Japanese driver’s licence, passport, existing bank book, alien registration card and two recent utility bills, and hoped that it would be enough to prove my identity. Despite having all of that documentation, when I told the clerk that I’d forgotten my stamp, she told me in no uncertain terms “Sorry; no inkan, no bank account,” which meant having to take another afternoon off just to go and stamp the forms with a tiny piece of wood with ケンダル (my last name in katakana) engraved into it…
Although it’s possible to choose the font, size of characters and even the shape of an inkan, the stamps usually contain just a person’s last name. Some quirky individuals have their inkan “reversed” so that the just outline of their name’s kanji characters, rather than the characters themselves, are printed on the paper like a photo negative, but that’s usually about as creative as it gets.
So imagine, ladies and gentlemen, pulling one of these little beauties out in the bank to sign for a 20-year mortgage…
To hardcore anime and manga fans, these unique inkan are possibly the greatest idea ever. To others, these are nothing short of cringe-worthy and the equivalent of including hearts and smileys in your signature on a legal document…
Saitama-based E3paper launched the order-made inkan service in June this year in association with a decades-old inkan maker in Shikoku, calling it “Ita-in Dou“, or “painful stamp hall”. On its website- itself a colourful, moe-inspired production worthy of any anime fan’s attention- E3paper assures customers that the original inkan are now accepted in a number of private and publicly owned business and associations, and even provides a list of Japanese banks- including Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho and Mitsui Sumito- where they can be used.
The garish stamps cost between 1380-2980 yen (US$17-38), and customers are invited to use the website to upload their chosen image as well as configure the style and shape of their name’s characters as they would be engraved on the stamp.
Twitter users’ reactions to the new generation of name stamps were surprisingly positive:
“Damn it, I actually kind of want one…!”
“So when will we start seeing ita-homes? LOL”
“I wonder if I could use this to register my marriage?”
“These… are awesome!”
Although everyone was quite so keen to jump on the bandwagon, with one Twitter user suggesting that the new custom-made stamps were embarrassing and a sign that “Japan is screwed…”
Oh, come on, you big party pooper! Who wouldn’t want to take out an enormous loan by stamping a personalised 1-Up mushroom on the bottom of a bank form!?
Oh no! I think I actually want an ita-in…