TOKYO -- Administrative reform minister Taro Kono announced at a news conference on Friday that he would abolish nearly all requirements for people to use seals in getting administrative procedures approved.
Roughly 15,000 processes currently require hanko seals, such as applications to government agencies. The requirement will be dropped for all but 83 procedures that require seals registered with local authorities. Amendments to current laws will be submitted to the regular Diet session that starts next year.
Under directions from Kono, the Cabinet Office in September asked all government ministries and agencies to in principle abolish the use of seals. Of the 14,992 procedures that required seals, 5,198 had the requirement dropped or were in the process of doing so, and 9,711 were under review.
Now the use of unregistered seals will be eliminated, leaving 83 processes that require officially registered seals -- a drop in seal usage of more than 99%.
Seals will no longer be required to request copies of official documents such as certificates of residence, marriage and divorce registrations, and tax documents. They also will no longer be needed in vehicle inspections. They will still be required for registering new companies, real estate transactions and vehicle registrations.
"We continued using unregistered seals, which don't serve as personal identification. We really rationalized that," Kono said on Friday. "This is a significant step in easing interactions between the private and public sectors. We're going to prepare a package of legislation to submit to the regular session of the Diet."
Administrative ordinances that call for the use of seals in various procedures will gradually be amended by the end of this year. Legally mandated requirements will be addressed in the bills submitted to the Diet.
The Suga administration is pushing a digitalization effort that involves cutting seal usage, getting rid of requirements for documents and face-to-face meetings, removing requirements on residency and designated occupation, and promoting cashless payments. Kono achieved a goal of abolishing seal usage within two months from the start of the administration in mid-September.
With the issue of seals resolved, changes to requirements on documents and face-to-face meetings will be the next step. "Once we've gotten rid of the act of stamping a seal on documents, those documents can be completed online instead of physically," Kono said on Friday.
"With the abolishment of unregistered seals, there's no need for physical documents or in-person meetings," he added. "Now we can work on moving core procedures online."
In October, the Cabinet Office asked all ministries and agencies to move their administrative procedures online in order to reduce administrative burdens and improve services for residents. Officials were asked to explain by late November if any procedures could not be done digitally.