The Land Where Having a Signature Is Frowned Upon

When I first learned that, “please sign here,” in Japan means to just write your name, I was astounded. Why would you write your name? It is so easy to impersonate, the point of signing is lost. I mean, I can easily look at your name in kanji and reproduce it regardless of how different our handwriting can be.

When I sign up for membership cards that require me to “sign” and did my thing, I almost always get, “かっこいいですね (that’s so cool)!” To me, I see nothing cool about signing the way I sign my name. It is just a way to indicate my agreement to something that is difficult for people to impersonate at one glance, and thus, protect my money/property.

For credit cards, because I sign it that way at the back of my card, I have to do the same when I get handed the slip to sign. However, for package deliveries and other less important stuff that require my signature, the Japanese staff here probably have gotten so used to foreigners making incomprehensible signatures, they no longer tell me to “sign here.” Nowadays, I get a lot of, “please write your name in full here.” Sometimes, when the staff don’t say that and I sign the illegible but correct way of signing, I get told, “could you also write your full name above?”

Recently, a program on social experiments (that was also responsible for the bullying article I wrote about previously), went to find out how many people have their own signatures that is not just writing their names, they started dissing and making fun of these people if they are not celebrities. Apparently, in Japan, the only people who have signatures are celebrities and public figures. Let me rephrase that: the only people who have the right to have signatures are celebrities and public figures. Everyone else who have their own signatures are just pretentious.

In fact, these non-celebrities who have their own signatures think the same way, as they decided to have their own signatures only because they are somewhat famous in their town, or among teens, etc. When the program asked some of them when and why they came up with a signature, some said they decided that they might someday be famous and came up with one “just in case.” They can be as unknown as the shop staff that a lot of teens around Harajuku like, or that hairstylist who gets a lot of reservations from customers. It appears they sometimes get asked by customers to sign, so they felt they needed a “cool” one.

Maybe one day when Japanese finally do away with name stamps will they begin to realize the true meaning behind having a complex signature; that it is not just for show or to look cool.


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