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Sealed fate: East Japan pref. to abolish official 'hanko' seals for admin. procedures

This image shows a typical Japanese business scene where a person puts an official seal on a document. (Getty)

MAEBASHI -- The traditional Japanese "hanko" seal will be banished from administrative procedures in this eastern Japan prefecture wherever they are not mandated by law or regulation, Gunma Gov. Ichita Yamamoto announced on Oct. 9.

    Gunma Gov. Ichita Yamamoto (Mainichi)

    The change will go into effect in principle by the end of the fiscal year in March, the governor stated at a regular news conference. Residents and businesses will no longer be required to stamp applications for permits or prefectural authorizations, or when filing an official notice. Electronic approval of documents will also be promoted within the Gunma Prefectural Government.

    According to the prefecture's operational reform section, as of the end of 2019 there were some 2,400 procedures requiring a hanko seal. Of these, the government will review some 1,400 which are not mandated by national law or other regulations. Prefectural authorities also plan to promote an electronic approval system for internal documents, which was being used in just 25.5% of cases as of August 2020.

    Gov. Yamamoto commented, "Apart from making tasks more efficient, it will also enhance convenience for residents. We will take swift action to work on this reform."

    The central government's administrative reform minister Taro Kono has requested each ministry and agency to abolish unnecessary hanko-based procedures, and numerous local governments across Japan have also been discussing moves to get rid of the custom.

    (Japanese original by Naomichi Senoo, Maebashi Bureau)

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