NEWS: New license plates reflect 41 regions of Japan

For nearly 70 years, the simple green-on-white number plate has been the default vehicle registration identifier for passenger cars throughout Japan. That’s all about to change, because on May 22 the Japanese government unveiled 41 new license plate designs, each one reflecting a different region of the country. 

Japan has always had very strict rules regarding license plates. Once they’re affixed by the proper authorities, a typical owner isn’t even allowed to remove them from the car. A tamper-proof seal is placed over the bolt attaching the plate to the car so that any attempt at removal will be obvious (of course many car guys have found ways around this, but perhaps that’s best saved for another article).

The green-on-white design was introduced in 1951, and has remained essentially unchanged since. The only deviations have been special plates issued celebrating the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Rugby World Cup, and those were only issued in 2017.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport unveiled the 41 new plate designs Tuesday. Each one has an illustration depicting something unique about that region. The plates can be had with a ¥1,000 donation (about $10) that will go towards transportation and tourism funds in the selected region. Here are the 41 plate designs.

From the Tohoku region, Morioka, Iwate, Hiraizumi, Sendai, Yamagata, and Shonai.

From the Kanto region, Tsuchiura, Tsukuba, Maebashi, Koshigaya, Narita, and Kashiwa.

From the Kanto region, Setagaya, Suginami, and Mt. Fuji. From the Hokuriku Shin’Etsu region, Niigata, Nagaoka, and Toyama.

From the Hokuriku Shin’Etsu region, Kanazawa and Ishikawa. From the Chubu region, Fukui, Fuji, Toyoda, and Kasugai.

From the Kinki region, Shiga, Kyoto, and Nara. From the Chugoku region, Tottori, Fukuyama, and Shimonoseki.

From the Chugoku region, Yamaguchi. From the Shikoku region, Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi. From the Kyushu region, Nagasaki.

From the Kyushu region, Sasebo, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima.

Of course, the green-on-white plates are for privately owned passenger cars. Commercial vehicles have white-on-green plates and kei cars have black-on-yellow plates. In order to denote those, the regional commercial plates will have a green outline, and the regional kei car plates will have a yellow outline.

If your favorite region wasn’t on the list, fear not. MLIT will add 17 more plates that will be introduced somewhere down the road. The first 41 shown here will be available starting this October. Get ready to see a lot more color on cars during future visits to Japan.




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12 Responses to NEWS: New license plates reflect 41 regions of Japan

  1. Now i’d really like to see those Yamagata “cherry” plates on a cherry. But maybe they were never sold as the cherry in Japan then…?

  2. Nigel says:

    Way more like the Province or State plates from here in North America.

  3. nlpnt says:

    I suppose the new must-have for collectors will be fake ones that “match” your car (Toyoda/Aichi for Toyotas, Hiroshima for Mazdas, Gunma for Subarus etc) – like how German car fans put fake M-for-Munich plates on BMWs, WOB-for-Wolfsburg on Volkswagens, S-for-Stuttgart on Mercedes and Porsche etc.

    Makes me wonder if the mismatch would be the more interesting find in Japan itself. I’d never seen a Michigan plate on an import of any kind until one of the big rental companies started massively registering there less than 10 years ago.

  4. KiKiIchiBan says:

    Oh yes, I need to get more for my collection.

  5. LB1 says:

    They also have number plates that light up though, besides the green on white.

  6. CobaltFire says:

    I love that Hiroshima has a Carps plate. The baseball games there are an experience; they have more energy than the ones I’ve gone to else where by a LONG shot.

    It’s also interesting to note that Nagasaki/Sasebo are the same plate (they ARE close) and that both are more tied into the A-Bomb Peace Park than the Hiroshima plate is to their (arguably) more known/important Peace Park. I wonder how much say the locals had in that? From my time living near Hiroshima they are somewhat tired of being stereotyped for that while Nagasaki seems to stress it.

  7. Ryan says:

    I was over in Japan a couple of weeks ago for a brief visit; I had to do a double take when I first spotted the colourful Tokyo 2020 special edition plates on a car. At first I thought somebody must have been bold enough to customise a plate with aftermarket decals or something – I was surprised to learn they were legitimate new designs.

    Times, they are a changing!

  8. ahja says:

    Yuck. I’ve always preferred the plain black and white Japanese tags to the garish postcard crap North America has. I like my cars uncluttered and pure, and the next best thing to no plates are very simple plates. I think North America’s tacky “lets use this legally mandated piece of metal to try to market our shitty state” model is not something to be admired or followed.

  9. Brandon Kelley says:

    When I registered my Dream50, I had the choice of a standard plate or one with the city’s cartoon mascots. I opted for the standard plates since the others were larger (to accommodate the characters). Now i kinda regret it. See the plate design here:

  10. Per says:

    Great content

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