Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Self-Portrait Tuesday Part II, Feb. 21, 2006


In Japan, one's signature isn't affixed to legal documents, apartment leases, bankbooks and so on. Instead, a hanko or inkan is used. Both words can be loosely translated as "signature seal." A hanko carries the same legal weight as a signature elsewhere in the world.
Here are my hanko.
The oval one at left was my legal hanko, my hanko of record. It shows my first name, Maikeru, rendered into katakana, the Japanese syllabary used for foreign words.
The three square ones show a purely phonetic rendering of my name, Maiko, in kanji, or Chinese characters. It's just coincidence, but maiko can be translated as "tall rice," which I think is neat. I use these hanko instead of my name when signing photographs. On a white or gray mat, they really stand out.
The small circular hanko is of my name in katakana. I used it to sign off on my students' classwork and homework.

18 comments:

Oxeye said...

Michael, saw your altar again via flapping mouths. it sure is a nice one. i think an alter would get lost in all my collected junk. i keep finding things outside to add to my collection of indoor junk. i have a box of smooth rocks in my garage i have collected over the years. sea shells, ball bearings, old books, records.. it's endless. i know it is a weird human activity but i never can pass by a flea market. heh

Michael said...

Thanks, Oxeye. I'm hooked on flea markets, too. As for altars, it's an interesting discussion going on at Flapping Mouths. For me, I like my altar just for what it is. It has sentimental value.

g said...

Great idea to use the hanko to sign your work. Very dignified and professional.

You said the three square seals were a rendering of your name, but the upper one on the left does not look like the other two.

Michael said...

Hi g,

Yes, I like the effect they create. The three square seals say exactly the same thing, except that one is written right to left and the two others are left to right. Otherwise, the kanji are identical.

Mike Cross said...

Your hanko reminds me of the aspects of Japan I love:
An orderly place.
A beautiful place.
A safe place.

And yet... a place whose postwar development was guided by unreformed war criminals. In many ways, not an open place. Not a place where individual freedom is valued.

A place that has been very deeply influenced by the Buddha's teaching. And yet...

Michael said...

Hi Mike,

Yes, yes, yes! I know exactly what you mean because I have felt the same way. In truth, my feelings toward Japan constitute the classic love-hate relationship many foreign residents describe. Yet if circumstances permitted, I'd likely move back in a heartbeat.

Mike Cross said...

I think that in order to move back and live happily in Japan, I would have to be better at not worrying about good and bad. You seem to me from your blogging to be a paragon of not being judgemental. What's the secret?

Michael said...

Oh, Mike, the fact is I'm very judgmental.
I'm getting better at being more open to the views of others, but I'm still quite stubbornly opinionated, especially in the course of conversation.
With blogging, though, I have the freedom to read and reread others' opinions and thus give them a more circumspect treatment than I would a conversation in real time.
To put it another way, I get to think before I respond (if I remember to do so), as opposed to just speaking the first thought that comes to mind.
Plus, I'm trying (but not always succeeding) in employing a trategy used by Benjamin Franklin, one of my role models. He said a key to avoiding coming across as judgmental in conversation (and, by extention, in writing) is to preface one's statements with "It seems to me ..." or "I've heard that ..." or "Perhaps ..." or "In my view ..."
I see the wisdom in this but I don't put it into practice often enough.

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Michael.

It seems to me that your posts and comments tend not to be judgemental, and your principle of thinking out your response might be the reason.

But how does that square with your practice of Zen and martial arts?

People usually understand, don't they, that true responses in Zen and the martial arts are not thought out.

What is your view on that?

Michael said...

Very, very difficult question, Mike, and one I'm not sure I can answer. I don't know what to say.
In karate, I aspire to react (not deliberate about a reaction) as if my life depended upon it. I suppose this is because I have no other choice: Do something, or (possibly) die. In a real-life confrontation, this is how it must be in most situations.
That doesn't square with how I present myself on my blog. I guess I don't perceive the same threat, or the potential for it, here as I do in the dojo.
I suppose that as for comments on others' blogs, I usually try to interact in a way that puts people at ease, or at least doesn't put them on the defensive, and this takes thought on my part -- though I have lost my patience on a couple blogs whose posts were, in my opinion, especially insipid or off-base. This would refute your very warm and much-appreciated compliment that I'm non-judgmental.
To be perfectly honest, this may have more to do with my wanting to be accepted and heard than it does with my desire to be compassionate and non-judgmental, though there might be some of that going on, also.
I don't know if this answers your question or even approaches an answer, but I don't know what else to say.

Mike Cross said...

Thank you for your honest answer, Michael.

It is a question I have struggled with myself. The principle I learned in Japan, first in Karate and then also for Zazen, was "Don't think. Just do it!"

But then when I came back to England to undergo Alexander training, what I heard was the opposite principle. "Don't just do it. Stop and think!"

Maybe somewhere in the middle way between these two approaches the truth lies. And maybe you are there already, my friend, way ahead of me who ever tends not to practice what he preaches.

Michael said...

Hey Mike,
I'm not sure where I am, but on balance, I'm enjoying the scenery!

Cheers,
Michael

Michael said...

And thank YOU, Phats!

Phats said...

Wow your blog is so educational as well as inspirational!

I linked ya thanks :)

miki said...

You have many "Hanko".I have only one without "shachihata" which sold in 100 yen shop. So cute.

Michael said...

Hi Miki-san,

My hanko bring back memories of my life in Japan.

miki said...

If we can meet in Japan or in U.S.,I'll present "Hanko" for you.

Michael said...

Ah, Miki-san, that's very kind of you! Thanks!