The Japanese public has been sharing the campaign video ahead of May 1, when Emperor Akihito will abdicate and pass the office to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Viewed with great symbolic meaning and an opportunity to start fresh, government offices expect couples will rush to register their marriages – using hankos.
There are signs certain industries are willing to give up hankos altogether, particularly as businesses court younger customers and digitize their services. Last month, some of the country’s biggest banks announced hankos will no longer be required to open accounts or withdraw money.
Japan has imported ivory from more than 250,000 African elephants since 1970, including a significant portion from poached wild elephants. Since the 1989 international ban on the ivory trade under CITES, Japan also secured two controversial CITES-approved ivory purchases of nearly 50 tonnes from Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia in 1999 and a further 48 tonnes in 2008.
Beginning in July 2019, Japan will require ivory traders to prove, via carbon dating, that whole tusks were legally acquired. The country’s ivory registration process has only identified a fraction of ivory known to be in the country.
At a press conference, Japan’s Environment Ministry said: “By shutting down the movement of ivory of unknown origin, the domestic market is moving closer to an effective closure.”
A final closure of all major legal markets would be truly historic and instantly bolster Japan’s environmental image worldwide, especially if the end date were to be announced in advance of the 2020 Olympics when all eyes will be on Japan.
WildAid is working in Japan to support any government effort to end the trade and address the remaining demand for ivory, particularly hankos. These Japanese stamps were not traditionally made from ivory, but the economic boom in the 1970s and 1980s prompted carvers to switch materials, and many people purchased whole ivory tusks believing it to be an investment.