Who are you and what have you done with Mr. Saito?

Since it's Summer break, but i'm still required to be at work all day every day, there are no classes to teach. Actually, there's absolutely nothing to do except study Japanese and, of course, putter around the internet. I rather like it. Being the great ALT that i am, i can't fight the burning desire to educate someone, ANYONE, ANYTHING. that anything is now you. Settle down children. Are you ready for today's class? Here we go...

Mr. Saito is a Japanese man. It's a common enough name, but there's something very unusual about this particular Mr. Saito: he does not exist. Let me explain. This--

---is an "inkan" or "hanko." It's one of the first things they gave me I arrived here. Your inkan functions basically the same as your signature, so it is considered about on the same level of importance as a credit card or picture ID.

In Japan, you can use this handy toy to approve official documents, just as you would use a signature. In fact most Japanese forms have a space for an inkan stamp as an alternative to the space for signing.

typically for foreigners like myself, the name on the inkan is written in katakana, the japanese alphabet reserved for foreign words like "hamburger" or "coffee." When i opened mine, i was excited to find my name written in beautiful kanji: the most intricate written language consisting of pictographic symbols appropriated from Chinese.

it looks like this:


The plot thickens. Sadly, i soon discovered, this Kanji does not read "Seidman," but instead says "Saito-san," i.e. "Mr. Saito." Interestingly, this is a very typical Japanese name, and while it's kind of cool to have a more "authentic" looking hanko, i'm afraid i am not Mr. Saito, and am worried about clerks not accepting my signature when i want to sign up for a cell phone and broadband. I'm imagining, "WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MR. SAITO?"

So i went to ask my best friend around the office, the 61 year-old (it's her birthday today!) office lady about changing it from "SAITO-SAN" to, "サイドマン" -- i.e. "SAIDOMAN" in katakana (that foreign-words alphabet i mentioned earlier). With the aid of a Japanese-English dictionary, the office workers and I managed to reach an understanding that it will set me back almost $60 to get my seal changed.

I think since they gave me the wrong name the school ought to pay for it, but i'm not about to try to communicate that argument to the poor office lady who speaks no English. I'll probably ask my supervisor when she gets back from summer break next week.

The alternative is to just keep using this funny japanese person's name until somebody notices, but it's already annoying. I've already been laughed at by a Japanese lady about it, and i'd like to keep that to a minimum.


Kinoko Times said...

I'm sure you'll be alright with a kanji inkan. Sure, some people may question it but you can always explain that it was made before you had any say about it.
I have to deal with something similar. My name is misspelled so I have to explain that when they ask about it... -_-"