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While one could get away with just using their signature, I preferred getting a hanko for convenience and simply wanted to immerse myself in Japanese culture. While doing research for my article on hanko, I chanced upon Yamamoto Inten, probably the most famous shop in Japan. The legendary shop is said to create hankos, based on things like your birthday and your vibe, that would change your fortune.
I was all excited for my first hanko, only to realize that getting an appointment was close to impossible. On my previous trips prior to moving here, I called daily for 7 days straight, to no avail. They accept appointments only for the next working day and they will accept calls only from 12 noon sharp. They won't pick up even if you call a minute before that! Calling their number at 12 sharp, you will find yourself listening to a busy tone. An old lady will probably pick up your call after about 15 minutes of retrying to tell you that no more slots are available. Perseverance is the key here, for one fine day at about 1205, I managed to get my call through. Hearing the old lady's voice, I hesitated, thinking maybe I was dreaming. She repeated herself and offered me a 3pm appointment time. I didn't hesitate then.
I turned up on time to the green building. Nothing from the outside tells you that it is a hanko shop. On the inside, there are two desks, some seats for waiting and barely enough space to move. The inside looked much smaller than I thought it would be. On one desk, the old lady (probably the one on the phone) will ask you to write down your name, number and birthday on a piece of paper. An array of hanko pouches sits in front of her as she hands out finished hanko to collecting customers. The other desk is where the master consults with his customer.
I had to wait for 2 customers ahead of me. The one before me requested for her old hanko to be refurbished, but was bluntly asked to leave. When my turn arrived, the master, a character that could come off as a Dragonball character with his shimmering white long hair and thick-framed glasses, asked me a bunch of questions in an attempt to understand me. He was patient with my limited Japanese and just chatted with me at random to learn my personality. Katakana names are usually long, so he could only fit “Alex” into the seal. While I wanted a set of 3 hankos, he claimed that I should only do one or my fortune will go south. Well, he's the master. While a single hanko would suffice for both a registered seal and a bank seal, he added that if I really wanted a personal seal, I should approach another hanko maker and to make sure that I had it made in wood. I'm not sure where he draws his prophetic conclusions from and I couldn't drill him with what limited Japanese I have.
After about a 10 minute chat, he sent me on my way and told me to come back exactly 3 months later to collect it. It cost an upfront 18000 yen, a fair bit more than hankos you can get at say, Tokyu Hands, so I better be getting a promotion and raise this year. Or at least a bonus.