License plate (Japan)
In Japan, license plates are issued by the regional offices of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport . However, special vehicles with low engine power get their approval from the municipal administration instead of the central administration. As a rule of thumb, cars with a displacement of less than 2000 cubic centimeters receive number plates from group 5, i.e. the upper code number begins with the number 5, while gasoline-powered cars with a displacement of more than 2000 cc receive number plates from group 3 (e.g. 330). Further criteria for the selection of the license plate are the dimensions of the vehicle. Different license plate rules apply to official vehicles of the Imperial Court Office , the Self-Defense Forces , foreign diplomats and the US military stationed in Japan .
Regular license plates
The license plates are issued in three different sizes, depending on the vehicle type. These are:
- Large: 220mm × 440mm (for trucks and buses)
- Medium: 165mm × 330mm (common size for most vehicles)
- Small 125mm × 230mm (for certain small vehicles and motorcycles)
|Used privately||Used commercially|
|Normal vehicles and two-wheeled vehicles (cubic capacity <250 cm³)|
In order to prevent the license plates from being “repainted”, different letter areas are used for the signs. The following hiragana are used in detail :
- White license plates:
さ す せ そ た ち つ て と な に ぬ ね の は ひ ふ ほ ま ま み む め も や ゆ よ ら り る ろ
- Rental car: れ わ
- Green marks: あ い う え か き く け こ を
- Private cars for workers in United States Forces Japan: Y, E, A
The table lists the vehicle types used on the license plate since 1998:
|code||Vehicle type||Technical exam|
|000||Construction vehicles||every two years|
|1..||Trucks with a displacement of more than 2000 cc||every two years|
|3 ..||Cars with a displacement of more than 2000 cm³||every two years (taxis: annually)|
|4 ..||Trucks and small trucks with a displacement of between 660 and 2000 cm³||every two years|
|5 ..||Cars with a displacement of between 660 and 2000 cm³||every two years (taxis: annually)|
|7 ..||Cars with a displacement over 2000 cm³ or wider than 1.70 m|
|77 to 79||Cars with a cubic capacity of between 660 and 2000 cm³ (only issued by a few prefectures)||every two years (taxis: annually)|
|800||Special vehicles with a displacement of more than 660 cm³ (e.g. fire brigade, police, tanker or garbage trucks, but also converted vehicles such as broadcast vehicles)||yearly|
|900||Tractor and work vehicles||every two years|
The license plates shown give the impression of what a license plate of Tama ( 多 摩 near Tokyo) would look like. It contains the vehicle code (500), a hiragana symbol in the lower part and the four-digit license number, which is divided into two parts by a hyphen (here: 12-34). Leading zeros are replaced by superscripts, with no hyphen (example: • • 34).
The vehicle classification also plays an important role in determining the vehicle tax. In particular, the very expensive class “7” (over 2000 cm³ or wider than 1.71 m) was specifically created to cover imported vehicles and make them more expensive to own.
Diplomatic license plates have white letters on a blue background.
United States Forces Japan
According to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), company cars of the US armed forces in Japan bear a "Y" on a white board or an "A" on a yellow board, where the hiragana symbols are usually located. Earlier versions showed the letters “K”, “M”, “G”, “H” or “E” indicating that the vehicle was imported and left-hand drive. It has been advised against shipping a vehicle from the USA to Japan since 1980, since then many members of the US armed forces have been buying their cars on the used car market outside the base or taking over the vehicles from staff who have been relieved and leave Japan.
List of Japanese regional license plates, sorted by prefectures
Note: In principle, every prefecture in Japan has a license plate, whereby the registered office of the registration office is always indicated, which is only occasionally identical to the name of the prefecture. Due to the large number of motor vehicles in some prefectures, there are several registration offices within such a prefecture. The following list is sorted geographically from north to south.