[From Novemberber Issue 2014]
Outside Japan, important documents such as contracts and certificates are generally signed by the relevant parties. In Japan, a seal rather than a signature is called for in such situations. A seal has the same power as signature to guarantee the authenticity of the individual or the corporation. Seals for corporations are square-shaped and for individuals, round-shaped. They are stamped on documents in red ink. For individuals, there are ready-made “stamps” in addition to made-to-order seals.
Besides seals used for official documents, stamps that require no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are also used. Released in 1965, Shachihata Inc.’s “X Stamper” is one such seal. In particular, the pre-inked stamp, released in 1968, is so well known that similar stamps made by other companies are also called “Shachihata.”
Stamps requiring no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are commonly used nowadays, but the development of the X Stamper was beset by difficulties at first. The company had been considering the idea of ink-saturated rubber stamps for years. For a stamp to be used repeatedly, it was necessary to develop a spongy rubber that the ink could seep into.
After many failures, its developers came up with a method using salt. First, rubber is mixed together with salt. If left in hot water for one day, the salt dissolves. Once the salt dissolves into the water, countless minuscule holes are left behind. The ink is stored in these holes. The result was that the right amount of ink would flow from it when the stamp was pressed.
Funabashi Shokai, Shachihata’s predecessor, was founded in 1925 as a manufacturer of inkpads. This company had developed a “permanent inkpad” that could be used without refilling. In those days, ink immediately evaporated from inkpads. They had to be soaked in ink every time they were to be used. The permanent inkpad was a sensation because it eliminated the need to do this.
“Our predecessors were thinking of using the rising sun from Japan’s national flag for the logo of this permanent inkpad. However, because of trademark issues, they chose a rising sun design with a shachihoko (mythical carp with the head of a lion and the body of a fish) inside it. This is because it was a symbol of Nagoya where our predecessors came from. Because of this, the product came to be named “Permanent Inkpad with a Shachi-Flag Logo,” NIWA Makiko, a member of Shachihata’s PR Department, says, explaining the brand’s origins. In 1941, the company was renamed Shachihata (Shachi-Flag).
Other than the X Stamper, the company has developed many unique stationery products, including a pen that doubles as a name stamp. Shachihata has gained a reputation in recent years for manufacturing unusual products like the “Kezuri Cap;” a pencil sharpener that can be mounted and used on an empty PET bottle.
Text: ITO Koichi
* Official company name シヤチハタ (Shiyachihata) are pronounced シャチハタ (Shachihata) despite its Japanese spelling.