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.