To pay for anything, you have to fill out a hagaki. Hagaki means “postcard,” but we are not talking about a pretty scene of palm trees and an aquamarine ocean with a short sentence on the back dashing off “Wish you were here.” We’re talking about the densest form of information known to humankind. And your modern life (electricity, gas, water, TV, Internet, phone) depends on you understanding these cards and filling them out correctly. And owning a little registered name stamp to stamp them in the name stamp circles.
Here’s an example:
They generally come with an example filled-in hagaki (on the left) and a blank one (on the right). They also come with a little “privacy protection sticker” that you tack down over the confidential information–either bank account information, for automatic withdrawals, or credit card number. Anyone could just take the sticker off and put it back on, after copying down your info. But I guess no one does? It’s like the tiny bike locks on the back wheels, maybe, kind of a polite sign saying, “Please don’t look at this” or “Please don’t take this bike.”
My name stamp (hanko 判子 or inkan 印鑑) makes me feel very official. I wonder if I can take it back to the States and use it instead of a signature.