Applications for background designs for special regional "Gotochi (local) number" car license plates featuring famous locations or local characters opened for the first time on May 30, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has announced.
At a press conference held on the same day, Minister Keiichi Ishii stated that he hopes the new background designs can act as moving billboards to help advertise the charms of the local regions.
While commemorative car license plate background designs for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be available for drivers nationwide, this is the first time the ministry is proposing plate background designs for the regional "Gotochi number" plates.
License plates in Japan display the area in which the car has been registered, and the name often covers a wide area, such as an entire prefecture. In 2006 and 2014, the ministry held applications for local regions to be able to display the area name on car license plates, and 29 local regions have since been added to the list of recognized areas.
This year will be the third application for the special area plates, and in previous years, to be eligible to have the area name displayed on a license plate, the region had to have over 100,000 registered vehicles. However, this time, the ministry has decided that municipal governments can join together if they satisfy the requirements of having more than 50,000 vehicles registered and the region name to be displayed has wide recognition.
In the case that the new background design is for one of the 116 region names already designated by the ministry for the regional number plates, drivers can begin trading in their old plates for ones with the new backgrounds around October 2018. If they are for a region that is newly designed in this round of applications, then the plates are set to be available in fiscal 2020.
The new background design for the plates will be available in both color and black and white versions, and be several thousand yen more expensive than the plain plates. In order to receive a plate with a color background, drivers are required to donate at least 1,000 yen toward traffic improvements or tourism promotion in the region. Municipalities that wish to introduce the special plates must submit the exact amount of the donation required for the color plates and the design to the ministry for approval.