- 14 Mar 2002
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Inkan, fax, and paper documents: the Coronavirus pandemic shows that, while some progress has been made, many Japanese companies are hopelessly lagging behind in the adoption of modern office solutions and IT technology.
"I need to physically be in the office because I need to submit paper documents and stamp them," Mizuho, who works at an IT firm in Tokyo, told AFP. Even though her company is tech-savvy in other ways, hanko are still the norm there, said Mizuho, who asked to be identified by her first name only. "We use Microsoft software as a communication tool... but I cannot work from home as long as the paper and hanko culture exists," she said. She worries that her firm isn't taking the pandemic seriously -- despite an employee in their building contracting the virus. "I feel unspoken pressure to be in the office," she added. [...]
Most Japanese adults have a personal seal, carved with their name in Chinese characters, and used in place of a signature to authenticate documents in every aspect of life -- from opening a bank account or acknowledging receipt of registered mail. Some major companies, including big banks, have begun phasing out their use. But they remain popular, along with other practices seen as outdated in other major economies, including the use of fax machines and a focus on paper rather than digital documents. A recent survey by the Japan Association for Chief Financial Officers (JACFO) showed 40 per cent of companies that introduced telework said workers ended up going to the office, primarily because they had to handle paper documents and stamp things with hanko. "There is a conservative culture where companies don't want to change how they work," said Hiroshi Yaguchi of JACFO.