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Jul. 13, Sun.*This program was first broadcast on Nov. 8, 2012

Name Seals

Many countries require signatures on contracts. But in Japan, name seals are used instead. From marriage registrations to car registrations, from birth certificates to death certificates, the stamp of a name seal is required on many public documents. Carving the face of a name seal is a task that requires painstaking workmanship. Seals with beautiful decorative designs can be artistic masterpieces in their own right. The samurai competed among themselves to have the most exquisite name seals, which were vital symbols of identity. Japan's imperial seal, the mark of the emperor, has been in use for more than 130 years. Even in our high-tech times, demand for name seals remains strong. Advances in digital technology have led to an entirely new type of name seal with some fascinating features.

On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is name seals. We investigate the large role that these small carved stamps play in Japanese life.