Japanese anti-ivory campaign takes aim at traditional ‘hanko’ stamps

A campaign from Grey Tokyo for environment organisation WildAid and non-profit organisations Tears of the African Elephant made a case against using ivory to create Japanese stamp seals known locally as ‘hankographs’.

Typically used as official signatures on formal documents, 80% of Japan’s ivory consumption is accounted for by ‘hanko’ stamps. The campaign aimed to raise awareness against the use of ivory and to encourage Japan to switch to more eco-friendly options such as wood.

Grey teamed up with academy award nominated animator Koji Yamamura, to create a film that used 500 wooden stamps in a grisly depiction of the brutal reality of ivory trade.

The campaign was particularly relevant considering Japan remains one of the largest ivory consuming nations in the world. The film was released to coincide with Earth Day (April 22) and besides playing online, was featured in newspapers and prominently placed billboards.

The campaign hopes to convince Japan to join the rest of the world in becoming ivory free. WildAid Japan and Tears of the African Elephant intend to make this a reality before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Speaking about the campaign, WildAid CEO and founder Peter Knights said: “As the last major legal market, we hope that Japan can join the global community in ending legal sales of ivory as soon as possible. After thousands of years of ivory trade decimating elephant populations, it would be a historic moment winning the nation great acclaim globally.”

WildAid Japan director and founder of Tears of the African Elephant Airi Yamawaki said: “Hanko can be replaced by several other materials. Since most of the ivory in Japan is used for hanko, if people start making hanko from other materials, it would be a big step forward to changing the situation in Japan.”

Grey Tokyo group creative director Masanori Tagaya added: “The deep underlying issue is that the majority of Japanese people are unaware that Japan is a high ivory consumption country. And that African elephants are an endangered species. Hanko stamps are an essential item for Japanese people because it represents your signature and carries your name.

“More so a reason we want people to think, consider and choose a sustainable material for making the stamp. With Hankograph art, created from 500 wooden hanko stamps, we sincerely hope that our message gets across to as many people of Japan and becomes a trigger for change.”


Animator and director: Koji Yamamura of Yamamura Animation

Group creative director: Masanori Tagaya of Grey

Associate creative director: Gaku Takai of Grey

Senior planning director: Rui Nago of Grey

Associate account director: Meg Fukuda of Grey

Account executive: Shinnosuke Ogura of Grey

Director of photography: Senzo Ueno

Producer: Kentaro Kinoshita of TYO Monster Diner

Campaign producer: Airi Yamawaki, Mt.Melvil, WildAid, Tears of the African Elephant

Production manager: Seiya Konno of TYO Monster Diner

Photographer: Mitsuru Nishimura

Digital designer: Maria Takaoka of Mt.Melvil

Captions and translations: Kennedy Taylor


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