Thursday, August 19, 2010

Welcome to Stampytown!

Justin and I finally actually signed our lease the other day, after about six days of squatting lease-lessly in the apartment. It felt a bit weird to me after the Western system, but the landlord has a long-standing relationship with the school and seemed to know we'd get around to it sooner or later. I think we're the third consecutive school tenant in this apartment, and three of the six apartments in this building are FIS teachers.

Since the school plays some sort of legal role in us getting the apartment (I know they pay the key money, which as far as I can tell is a legal bribe of 1-6 month's rent just for the right to pay rent), we signed the lease over there. Or, more accurately, "stamped" the lease. Stamping is big in Japan. This is Kumi's box of stamps for filling in school data on various forms:

This tiny stamp (maybe 10 point font or so) fills the school address in for you neatly:

Back in Scotland, Justin and I did our darnedest to major in the longest-named programs at the entire university ("Material and Visual Cultures of the Past" and "Material Cultures and the History of the Book." Makes you long for "Biology," don't it?) When I submitted papers at the end of each semester, I had to fill that name in on two cover sheets and a plagiarism declaration. I really could have used a stamp like Kumi's.

To Justin and my great entertainment, our part in the contract process required stamping as well. Japanese "sign" contracts, open bank accounts, etc. with hanko, little round stamp-sticks with surnames on them. For common surnames, you can buy pre-made stamps, although many people get custom ones to make forgery more difficult. For our wacky white surnames, of course, it was custom all the way.

Kumi spent quite some time deliberating over precisely which Japanese vowel to use for Justin's surname (Gahff? Gohff? Guff?) but didn't seem much concerned over clarifying the hiss-sound in my surname, which I didn't think was that unusual in Japanese. Consequently, while Justin's hanko is the very-accurate "Goffu," I'm stuck with "Mashi." Like, "What are you doing over there with the potatoes?" "Oh, I'm getting all Mashi." I suppose this is Justin's karmic reward for tolerating two years in Korea as Mr. Gopp.

On our paperwork for our "Alien Registration Cards," one of us had to choose to be head of household and one of us was "spouse." Justin ended up as head, and has holding it over me ever since ("I like chunky peanut butter better, and I'm the head of the household!" "I don't want to shave today, and I'm the head of the household." One of these days, I'm going to kick him - right in the head of his household!) This gross injustice is compounded because certain things should be in the name of the head of household, and therefore he also gets to stamp more than I do.

Here's Justin in the midst of a Stamp Act. (Little history teacher humor there.):

The shapes indicate whose stamp goes where. I think the far-left stamp is the landlord, and the school's stamp, as guarantor, goes in the triangle. But all I am sure of is that the circle was us.

Stamping is harder than it looks. The stick is an incredibly awkward shape, and if you let it slide even a smidge to the right or left, or if you don't press hard enough, you'll end up with a wonky signature. God help you on a multipage contract like our lease, where you actually have to stamp across the "gutter" where the two pages meet. Sometimes they throw in a staple just to keep things exciting. I actually goobered so badly on our Internet contract that the guy tore up the page and started over. Guess that's why I don't get to be head of the household.

Finished product:

Don't you go identity-thieving now!


  1. nice post, Mashi! Although if they stamp to sign things, it's unclear why you even have to be there at all! What a strange thing.

  2. also, I think you should know that my captcha for the above comment was essentially "ass crown". There was a F at the end there, but I know what they meant.

  3. Your comments are always the highlights of any blog entry.

  4. Could there be a plus side to NOT being the Head of Household? Like unpaid utility bills won't be in your name?

  5. I want a stamp!!! What do you think Jaroncyk would be on a stamp? Jaranshukee?

  6. Yay Goffu!
    My last name is "Ri-ah-oh" in Japanese. With the soft L like R of course!

    I've always wondered about the stamp too. I have one that apparently is legally significant if I used it back in Taiwan, but all I used it for when I was 7 was stamping everything in my room to my mother's displeasure. It's weird!