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Edogawa local novelty licenses plates ready to hit the streets

The Yomiuri Shimbun

As the drive toward specialty license plates featuring district names gains traction in Tokyo, a new one bearing the “Edogawa” moniker is likely to hit the streets as the sixth such designer plate.

The introduction of local novelty license plates is also intended to serve as a running advertising tool that promotes area brands.

The impetus behind areas introducing the license plates is sometimes local pride, or love for one’s town, or perhaps a bit of a friendly rivalry with neighboring towns.

“We would like residents in Edogawa Ward to feel a connection to the ward,” Edogawa Mayor Takeshi Saito said in June, explaining why the town was working to create its own specialty plate.

Plates bearing special place names were introduced in 2006, and those with visual designs promoting specific areas were introduced in 2018.

Car owners must pay a fee for license plates with colorful designs.

Ordinarily, license plates feature the names of areas in which transportation bureaus of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry or other facilities are located.

Residents of Edogawa Ward are supposed to use a license plates bearing the name “Adachi” for Adachi Ward, Tokyo. However, the populations of the two wards have been close in recent years, at about 700,000 each, and the number in Edogawa Ward has sometimes exceeded that of Adachi Ward.

Under such circumstances, the time seems ripe for Edogawa Ward to become “independent” from Adachi Ward and have its own local license plates.

There are certain conditions for an area to introduce its own specialty plates, such as having more than 100,000 registered vehicles and building up a consensus among residents.

In Tokyo, five wards — Setagaya, Suginami, Koto, Itabashi and Katsushika — have introduced their own plates. Edogawa Ward satisfies the former condition and aims to file its application in March next year after conducting an awareness survey among its residents.

A senior ward official said place name suggestions include “Edo” and “Wangan,” but the name “Edogawa” is now considered most realistic, given the requirement for the name to represent characteristics of the area.

The ward office plans to let residents choose a design for its plate.

‘Asakusa’ is difficult

Similarly, many residents in Taito Ward, Tokyo, another area where Adachi license plates are used, want to have a local license plate bearing names such as “Asakusa” and “Ueno,” both of which are known nationwide, even though the ward has only about 35,000 registered vehicles.

Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, known for its quiet residential areas and academic districts, has about 30,000 registered vehicles. The license plates on cars owned by its residents bear the name “Nerima,” which reminds many of Nerima Ward and its comparatively rural image. Both Taito and Bunkyo wards hope the central government eases the requirements, but the transport ministry is negative about loosening its rules, saying that would lead to a heavier burden on transportation bureaus.

Unpopular designs

Some wards that have already introduced specialty plates have experienced issues. For instance, Setagaya Ward, which finally released its long-awaited Setagaya local license plate in 2014, started to provide designer license plates in 2018. However, residents failed to get on board with the items.

While the design shows off the Tama River and its rich nature, the ward office has received only 758 applications as of the end of May.

Setagaya Ward is famous for its upscale Seijo residential district and the Futako-Tamagawa area with a cluster of high-rise condominiums referred to as “celebrity town.”

Said a 35-year-old woman with the Setagaya plates: “I am not feeling strong about the design.”

The specialty plates might be dropped if there is not enough demand.

“The designed license plate has not been widely used for more than one reason, including the design itself,” a ward official said. The ward is mulling measures to keep the designer plates idea alive.

‘Kumamon’ ranks No. 1

Nationwide, 58 areas have introduced specialty license plates with designs for cars. Designs featuring local characters and regional characteristics are especially popular.

The most popular design is for Kumamoto Prefecture, featuring cheerful bear mascot Kumamon. About 35,000 applications have been received.

The specialty license plate of Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, depicts Carp Boya, the mascot of the Hiroshima Carp professional baseball team. It is popular among the club’s fans, attracting about 17,900 applications.

The Asuka plate featuring Suzaku, a vermilion bird painted on the Kitora Tumulus in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, went viral on social media while the Fujisan plate, a collaborative effort of five cities and towns near Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, draws many inquiries from inside and outside the prefecture.