After I receive my first paycheck, I have to repay several expenses that the school covered for me. My most important purchase is my inkan, the seal I affix to official documents (like bank withdrawals). Using my inkan makes me feel like I’ve stamped a royal decree.
My inkan is rather unusual because it has romaji (roman letters) on it. Most inkan for foreigners have their names written in katakana script. My full name wouldn’t have fit, so Murakami-sensei had it made for “M Stevens”. As there is no katakana equivalent for the “M”, she gambled and had them put it in romaji. It’s perfect because I’ve always formally signed my name “M Sinclair Stevens” and informally, used just “M”.
I think Nakagawa-sensei provided the little case for my inkan, which I carry with me in my purse at all times.
I also get a rubber stamp of my name for use on school reports. Both the inkan and the rubber stamp have a little indentation so that you can tell which is right side up without looking.
Rubber Stamp Names
The teachers all have their own rubber stamps. Moreover, for each class there is a box of rubber stamps with the student names. Whenever a teacher is making up reports (all done by hand), they use the rubber stamps so they don’t have to write each student’s name. The teachers are frequently calling back and forth to borrow a box of names from each other.
They do have computers in this school but they are not used for the huge amounts of paperwork that the teachers generate.
Spelling My Name
Back in year 1, (1989 is Heisei 1–the first year of the new era which began on January 8, 1989), my family name, Stevens, was rendered スチーブンス, (pronounced SU CHEE BU N SU). Then in the 1990s, many katakana equivalents were changed including the spelling of my name, which is now スティーブンズ (pronounced SU TE-EE BU N ZU). As a result in 2002, when I went back to college to study Japanese formally for the first time, I no longer knew how to spell my own name.