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nice gaijin

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As you may know from my thread Japanese Name Stamps - Hanko/Inkan/Shachihata | Japan Forum I helped launch a website for a company in Japan that makes hanko (Japanese name stamps). As part of my role, I'm helping coordinate outreach to help market the site and inform people about hanko.

A little backstory: As a former exchange student, I immediately recognized that there's an untapped market for students to order their own hanko before they come to Japan. I had many friends that went to, say, open a bank account only to be told that they needed a name stamp, sending them frantically looking for the closest hanko shop. So many students and expats come to Japan and don't know about this custom until it blindsides them. I think that getting your own personal hanko can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but a lot of people are forced to buy whatever's the fastest, most convenient one, and miss out on having a positive shopping experience.

So I talked to my client and put together a flier to distribute to various exchange programs so students will at least be forewarned about this custom, and they agreed to offer a 20% discount to exchange students! The only question now is, how to best get this to the students?
If you are a student, please contact me and I will share the code with you. Customers who use the code will be asked for some information about their exchange program, so please be honest!

I originally designed this to be printed, and it can be either delivered flat or folded into a three-panel brochure, but there's no reason it can't be shared digitally. Regardless of whether this results in any sales, we think it's a valuable service to let new students about the custom of name stamps, and that they should at least consider getting one. I learned from this site that there are around 60,000 foreign students studying in Japan every year, though it's unclear how many of those are new incoming students or in what capacity they are coming to Japan to study.

My first thought was that it could just be included in their acceptance packages, or in digital newsletters or announcements... I'm reaching out to the exchange program I participated in to start, but I don't want just my fellow CSUIP students to benefit from this offer, so I started looking at organizations that help students come to Japan to study. Whilst researching this, I thought that it may be helpful to potential exchange students to share what I've found.

In a nutshell, there's an overwhelming variety of schools, exchanges and scholarships for students looking to come to Japan...

So far, here's what I gathered:
In no particular order. Please note that this list consists mainly of links related to post-secondary education, although I did see plenty of resources for high school exchanges out there.

Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) - an independent administrative institution established by the Monbukagakusho administering scholarships and support programs for international students. They distribute the Japan Alumni eNews, also maintain lists of Japanese universities that accept foreign applicants and short- term programs. They also have a brochure of private and public scholarships available for international students.

Gateway to Study in Japan - an informational site run by JASSO

MEXT (Monbukagakusho) - There are plenty of threads on this site about MEXT scholarships. Their English site is relatively scant on information though.

Global 30 - A MEXT program that is coordinating with 13 universities in Japan with the goal of bringing 300,000 international students to Japan to study in English. There's a Student Life section talking about the various aspect of life in Japan, which might be a good place to talk about customs like hanko. (Yikes, their PDF pamphlets could use a designer's touch!)

Study in Japan - A site run by the Ministry of foreign affairs, with information for prospective, current, and former students. There's a list of some alumni associations as well, although our interest is more in reaching students before they arrive! They also list out the Monbukagakusho scholarships.

Institute of International Education (IIE) - Private, not-for-profit group that collaborates with government and private sponsors to provide scholarships like the Fulbright and Gilman Scholarships in the US.

Generation Study Abroad - IIE initiative, manages the Fulbright scholarship and sponsors students going all over the world

ISEP - non-profit group of 328 colleges around the world that arrange for... individual study abroad it seems? They say they directly enroll students into classes at their member universities.

Studyabroad.com - Looks like an informational directory for study abroad opportunities around the world, run by EducationDynamics LLC, which runs a number of education-related sites. I'm not sure what their angle is in particular (possibly the programs pay to be listed in their site?), but they have a list of many individual programs in Japan

Goabroad.com - similar to studyabroad.com, another private venture based out of Colorado. It lists many different international programs

American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ) - non-profit organization of Japanese language teachers that also administers the Bridging Scholarships, which I remember almost getting when I went to Japan. They also have a pretty big list of schools in Japan and exchange programs, and a list of scholarship suggestions under their "financial aid" section.

Freeman-ASIA - Another organization that offers scholarships, specifically to students going to Asia. I applied for (and again nearly received) this one as well. Apparently it stopped in 2013, but according to their about page, the IIE listed above is relaunching Freeman-ASIA this year.

Boren Awards for International Study - Named for David L. Boren, the senator (and now President of University of Oklahoma) who helped create the National Security Education Program, which provides resources to students who want to study abroad (and is set up under the Department of Defense, so it seems to be a pipeline into foreign service for the US government). It's also administered by the IIE.

Truman Scholarship - Another US-based national program, founded as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. They support young people in exchange for a commitment to public service. I remember applying for this but not being nearly excited enough at the prospect of working for "the man." It helps to be enthusiastic about that aspect of the program!

Phi Sigma Iota - Honor Society membership group, which has scholarships available for members only (which seems to be by invitation only). Sad, sad website though.

Phi Kappa Phi - Another honor society with scholarships offered to members

Japan Study Support - Run by The Asian Students Cultural Association and Benesse Corporation, a Japan-based site that has lists of universities and provides general information for prospective students, including a pretty extensive scholarship guide

Rotary International - Large international organization, seems to operate similar to the honor societies with membership-by-invitation. They do a lot, including provide scholarships to exchange students. I've heard about this group many times over the years (I think a neighbor of mine when I was growing up was an active member), though I have no direct knowledge of how they work. According to this, they offer two kinds of scholarships, District grants and Global Grants for studies focused in specific fields (for some reason, all of these info pages are PDF documents).

~~~~~
So, hopefully this information can prove useful to some of you youngsters out there looking for a way to get to Japan as a student. If there are any organizations that should be added to the list please respond!

If you have any thoughts on how to best reach out to these groups to distribute our informational advertisement, or other ideas on how to best market the site, I'm more than happy to hear it!
 

cocoichi

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@nice gaijin , I absolutely don't want to rain on your parade, but for exchange students it's not necessary to have an inkan.

In case of bank accounts, there must be several that cater to foreigners (without using an inkan). JP post bank for example. Most universities have a special introduction week, in which they go with a local student to all kinds of institutions and shops to get their lives in Japan started.

So, naming it essential would be kind of false advertising. Making life easier, maybe. But I've personally seen that exchange students can easily do without.

Then, to end with a positive note: not every student comes through an organisation. Many come through a university's partner network. Most universities are really open about their network. Just go to a Japanese university's website. Go to international/international office or something similar, and look for their list of partner universities abroad. That list could be used to contact the foreign universities, and tell them about your service.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I think the flyers are beautiful.

As someone who is in the midst of a marketing frenzy, I can say for a fact that what is working best for me is pounding pavement, working the phones, sending emails, and setting up meetings.

The agencies you want to partner with need to know how they are getting value, because you're asking them to increase their costs and work hours.

My recommendation would be to offer 10% off for the students and give that other 10% to the agency as a referral bonus. People don't like to work for free.
 
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nice gaijin

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Thank you both for your feedback!

@cocoichi, I appreciate that "essential" may seem a bit superlative, but while some students can get away without one, for some it is inescapable. And the longer one stays in Japan, the more useful a hanko becomes.

A friend I met last year is doing graduate research in Tohoku, and she uses her hanko every day to mark her attendance, which is how her stipends are calculated. I asked if she could sign instead, and she said the office wouldn't accept anything but her seal. To her, her hanko is tied to her livelihood.

The model in the brochure is another friend of mine who is a student at a language school. When she first arrived, her school provided her with a cheap hanko, but she had no say in how she wanted her name written or the style or material of the hanko. She didn't care for it, it was just a thing she needed from time to time. When she came for the shoot I asked her for her preferences and we made her a hanko on the spot. She was so touched by this, and felt a strong connection to the hanko because it was exactly what she asked for. She now uses her new hanko every chance she gets.

At least with the exchange program I was with, there was no warning or special handling at the time, and though we had some help getting phones with volunteer students, we were mostly on our own unless we specifically asked for help. And nobody knew to ask about hanko. After hearing about my classmates' experiences with their banks I expected I might have to get a ginko-in. I even made plans to go order one in advance but ran out of time. To my surprise, Shinsei let me open an account with a signature. As always, the "Your mileage may vary" rule applies.

In the end, I made it through my exchange program without a hanko, but in retrospect I wish I got one. On the practical side, it would have certainly made things smoother in some situations; there were several uncomfortable pauses throughout the year before someone would finally accept my signature (because there was no other option). On a more personal note, it would also have served as a memento for my time there, and my attempt to integrate into the local culture. In other words, hanko isn't a purely practical need; the "seal culture" is an element of life in Japan that helps contrast how we think of identity and "making our mark."

@WonkoTheSane, thank you for the kind words (I'm pretty happy with how it came together as well!), and for the idea of affiliate profit-sharing. I'll bring this up with my client. I definitely want to provide value to the organizations, and I thought I'd do that by making it as easy as possible for them to share the coupon with their students. I'll try to think of other angles to show that we're trying to provide valuable information and services, and not just advertise our own business.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Making it easier for a partner to make you money while costing them money is not providing value.

Someone asking me to add paper costs, mailing costs, and dilute my information sent to students is a big favor as a business, and I'd expect some sort of quid pro quo.
 
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nice gaijin

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to clarify, we wouldn't expect the organizations to print and mail the fliers on our behalf. If we were asking them to send a physical copy of the flier when they're already mailing, we would provide them printed and ready to go. We're certainly not looking to increase their overhead to distribute the coupon.
 

mdchachi

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I absolutely don't want to rain on your parade, but for exchange students it's not necessary to have an inkan.
I almost brought that up but it would be counterproductive to a business trying to sell hanko. 😁
I lived & worked in Japan for 6 years and never had one and never had an awkward moment without one that I can recall. But I worked for a large American company so it's not like they would expect us to do any paperwork with hanko. I do remember putting my signature on various forms for workmen, delivery, etc. in the spot where the hanko goes.
 

cocoichi

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I almost brought that up but it would be counterproductive to a business trying to sell hanko. 😁
I lived & worked in Japan for 6 years and never had one and never had an awkward moment without one that I can recall. But I worked for a large American company so it's not like they would expect us to do any paperwork with hanko. I do remember putting my signature on various forms for workmen, delivery, etc. in the spot where the hanko goes.

I wish the business all the success in the world, honestly, but I wouldn't use words that give a wrong image or lead to wrong expectations. The previous example is a researcher, but in the first post he is targeting exchange students. Exchange students never stay that long.

All I'm trying to say is that his business could also hurt in the long run from dissatisfied customers who were led to believe it was necessary, only to discover it wasn't. That's why I'm saying: use different approaches for different groups. Nice to have vs essential.
 
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