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Electronic seals gaining attention amid spread of telework in Japan

  • April 16, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

TOKYO (Kyodo) — As Japan tries to promote teleworking amid the coronavirus pandemic, the use of electronic seals is recently gaining popularity among businesses where stamping documents is still the norm.


An office supplies maker in central Japan has launched an online service to put stamps on documents online, regarded as a countermeasure to prevent some workers from having to travel to the office to do so.


Customers using the services of Shachihata Inc. based in the city of Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, can access documents via computers or smartphones and stamp them using electronic seals registered with the service.


The number of new registrations for the service stood at around 13,500 in March, but the figure surpassed 50,000 in April amid stay-at-home requests strictly in place.


“Many people were probably looking for a solution as they suddenly have to work from home. I hope our service will help make administrative work easier,” a public relations official of Shachihata said.


The service is a silver lining for businesses at a time when the Japanese government has declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures and aims to reduce the volume of commuters by 70 percent in an effort to minimize contact between people.


In Japan, “hanko” stamps or seals are widely used for purposes such as signing contracts and business transactions.


“Telework has not been fully implemented as the culture of ‘hanko’ stamps is a bottleneck,” said Fumihiro Naganuma, head of a consortium that provides know-how to small- and medium-sized companies on how to implement telework.


Naganuma works at a software development firm in Tokyo that allows its staff to work from home. But he still has to report to the office about once a week to draw up contracts.


When he showed up at the office Monday, the company president was there as well, and it took about 30 minutes to put the seals on documents, according to Naganuma.


Even among the consortium — 30 companies in the capital and its vicinity as well as the city governments of Semboku and Odate in Akita Prefecture, northeastern Japan — 90 percent were unable to sufficiently implement teleworking, he said.


With firms increasingly signing contracts online and business meetings being conducted mostly online, Naganuma sees the use of “hanko” seal culture as being “out of touch” with the current trend.

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