Last week we put together a guide to getting your driving license in Japan and as a follow up to that we have worked with Plaza Homes of Tokyo to put together a quick guide to help you understand car number plates in Japan. On the top line, the name of the issuing office is indicated mostly by Kanji and a vehicle class code in numerals.
Tokyo is divided into five regions, Adachi, Hachioji, Nerima, Shinagawa and Tama. Folks in Tokyo may notice many cars with number plates indicating 品川 in the central and southern area including the Izu Islands , 足立 in the north-east, 練馬in the north-west, and 八王子or多摩 in the suburb of Tokyo.
Vehicle Class Codes- 2 digits or 3 digits can be explained like this: 10 – 19, 100 – 198 large trucks 20 – 29, 200 – 298 buses 30 – 39, 300 – 396 private cars, over 2000 cc 40 – 49, 400 – 479 small trucks, less than 2000 cc 50 – 59, 500 – 579 private cars, less than 2000 cc 80 – 89, 800 – 879 special purpose vehicles 90 – 99, 900 – 998 special large sized vehicles.
The bottom line contains a Hiragana character and a four-digit serial number divided into two groups. There are certain regulations for using Hiraganas such as れ and わ for rental cars. The Romaji alphabet is used for vehicles owned by US military personnel instead of Hiragana.
Colors are also used for classification;
White plate with green characters: Private vehicles
Green plate with white characters: Commercial vehicles
Yellow plate with black characters: Private vehicles, less than 660 cc
Black plate with yellow characters: Commercial vehicles, less than 660 cc
These number plates are issued by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the National Government for most vehicles while ones with smaller engines are issued by the local municipality.
What you should remember in case of emergency are the 4-digit numbers, issuing office and of course the color of your car to help identification. Other types of number plates categorized for official use are: Blue plate with white characters: Foreign Diplomats White plate with a red diagonal line: Temporary number White plate with black characters: Military