Hanko date back to 5500 B.C., when people in the Middle East began engraving their personal symbols on stones, shells and clay and leaving impressions to identify property as their own. Hanko use first spread to Europe, and then Asia.
Hanko have been employed by high officials and samurai for most of Japan’s recorded history and were already common among merchants and farmers by the Edo Period (1603-1868).
The modern hanko system was codified during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) in the early 1870s, when legislation was passed requiring people to register their hanko and use them on important documents.
A hanko personal seal is a necessary item for most adults in Japan which is the same role as a signature in the West.
Most 100 Yen shops like Daiso will have a variety of hanko in kanji for the most typical Japanese family names. These might not be suitable to bring as gifts for non-Japanese, but Daiso and other 100 Yen shops have a large variety of hanko cases and ink pads.
Why not get a Hello Kitty case for your brand new hanko? Imagine surprising a friend with a personal seal in a Hello Kitty case, or other famous anime characters. Buying your cases and ink pads at the 100 Yen shop is also a good way to save money, as most online and physical hanko shops will have them at a more expensive price tag.