Monday, May 23, 2011
Vehicle Registration and License Plates in Japan
Today we'll learn about what exactly the District Transport Bureaus handle, what they don't handle, and, down there at the bottom of the article, how to find your nearest branch.
*Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism
Doesn't it realize how obnoxiously long its chosen English name is? This is the same country, mind you, that has gobs and gobs of application forms that don't accommodate anyone with a full name longer than 6 characters, including plenty of online forms that return a "your name is too long" error.
Anyway, when you buy a car, the District Transport Bureau is the place where you take said car to have its registered name changed (if you bought from an individual) or to have it newly registered in your name (if it is a new car from a dealer or if the dealer removed the previous owner's name and plates from the car before selling). This is the authority that issues the coveted 車検証 (しゃけんしょう) and Japan's vehicle registration plates (a.k.a. license plates, registration plates, ナンバープレート).
However, the bureau only issues these items for full-sized vehicles. Yellow-plate Kei cars report to a different authority: The Light Motor Vehicle Inspection Organization, or 軽自動車検査協会 (けいじどうしゃけんさきょうかい). In most areas, the Light Vehicle Organization will have it's offices located nearby the larger District Transport Bureau, so effectively the place you need to go to is the same, just the desks you wait at and the paperwork you fill out differs. Registering a Kei car is also, I hear, a quicker process than that of a full sized auto.
By the way, if you buy a car from a dealer and ask them to take care of the plates for you, this is exactly the same place that the dealer must bring the car. In fact, the vast majority of people waiting in lines and sitting on benches at these offices are car dealer employees. When you ask a dealer to do it for you, you pay for the employee's time and transport, whereas if you change plates yourself, the processing fees usually don't exceed the 2500-3000 yen range. (Of course, it also costs you your time.)
Unlike the DMV in the U.S., the issuance of driver's licenses and vehicle registration plates are handled by separate authorities in Japan. A driver's license in Japan comes from the Driver's License Center, 運転免許センター (うんてんめんきょせんたー). In regions without a Driver's License Center, some procedures (renewal, change of name, change of address, etc.) may be handled by a local police station, but the initial license is always issued by the Driver's License Center.
If you want to try your hand at "self-shaken," the District Transport Bureau is also the place to go for that. One of the buildings in the bureau will have a large auto pit where cars can be taken for shaken inspection. Garages and mechanics that offer shaken services are licensed by this bureau and perform the same set of inspections on each vehicle. The difference in price between hired shaken and self-shaken is a matter of knowledge and convenience. To do a self-shaken you don't need to know a terrible amount about cars, but you do need to know how to go through the procedures at the bureau. More importantly, you will need the time (during weekdays, usually applications are accepted from about 9:00-16:00) to take your car to the bureau and have the inspections done yourself. A garage or a mechanic, on the other hand, may do it on a weekend and hang on to your car until it's convenient for you to pick it up.
Has anyone else noticed a trending in Japan for people to pay to have something done rather than learn how to do it themselves?
The region a District Transport Bureau or a Light Motor Vehicle Inspection Organization administers isn't exactly proportionate to a prefectural government (as it would be in, say, the U.S.). That's why there are more types of vehicle plates in Japan than prefectures; if you live in the right area you can have your vehicle plate say something cool like 富士山, 六本木, or 鈴鹿.
Usually there will be several bureaus in a prefecture based around its centers of population. If you live in the boonies, unfortunately this could mean that the bureau that administers your area is a two or three hour drive away. Check out these handy websites for a complete listing of all branches of the District Transport Bureau and all branches of the Light Motor Vehicle Inspection Organization, including access maps and operating hours.
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hi! I have a question: I would like to change my car, can I use my old plate number to my new car? thank youReplyDelete
Thanks for your question. You mean you want to use your current license plate number on the new car, right? No, you will not be able to just swap the plates over to the new car. You're legally required to hand those plates over to the Bureau of Transport when you dispose of or sell the car. (If you sold to a dealer, though, he'll take care of that paperwork and probably just leave the old plates attached to the car until he passes it on to a new buyer.) However, if you are attached to your certain sequence of numbers, for example, when you register your new car, you can request a custom plate from the Bureau with the same combination of numbers. (The hiragana on the left-hand side will probably be different, though.)ReplyDelete
I am in need of legal rights to japanese license plate number codes... Do you know if it is possible for a foreigner to purchase them (residing in Europe)? What are the costs?
As in, actual (used) plates? In my experience, no. I have changed plates on my car a few times, and each time I asked the land transport bureau if I could keep my old plates as mementos. They said no. The plates are evidence of the car's registration and must be returned to the bureau when the car is decommissioned. Failing or refusing to do so (which would essentially boil down to taking plates off an old car and not notifying the bureau that it's no longer being used) can lead to fines or jail time. Other people have similar information here: http://okwave.jp/qa/q4252753.htmlReplyDelete
I have a question, do you have to register your vehicle at the bureau of your place of residence? For example if I buy a car in a different prefecture would I need to get the plates there or in the prefecture I reside?ReplyDelete
Same prefecture. Or, well, district, really. (Some prefectures are split up into multiple districts.) It's based on the address of the person to whom the vehicle is registered. Some branch will have jurisdiction over the owner's city or town, which will determine what kind of plates the car has. I assume that the car also has to be taken to the specific branch for registration--that you can't register for Nerima plates at the Shizuoka branch, for example.ReplyDelete
I want to register my car with japan plates but I live in the usa can I do this or do I have to live in japan?ReplyDelete
Unfortunately (as far as I'm aware) in order to have Japanese plates issued both the car and owner must be in Japan, with a domestic address for where the owner lives, and in most municipalities, a domestic address of the parking lot where the car will be kept, as well.ReplyDelete
Hi, great website. I bought my car in Okayama a few months ago. I have since moved to Miyoshi (Hiroshima prefecture). I was wondering how soon do I need to change the licence plate to reflect where I live? In the US, I know you usually have a year to change your car's state licence plate.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the comment. I changed my plates pretty quickly each time I moved. I think the legal obligation is something in the range of 20-30 days after changing address. However, I later learned from (Japanese) coworkers and casual observance of other cars in my neighborhood that a lot of people don't really follow this letter of the law. (One of my former neighbors has had the same out-of-prefecture license plates on his car for 3 years.) I can't say I recommend it, as you could probably be cited for it by an uptight officer when, for example, pulled over for another offense. However, the police don't seem to actively hunt for cars with incorrect license plates. The only thing you have to actually be careful about is notifying the Okayama prefectural tax bureau. Since the notification slips for auto tax due have been sent out within the last few weeks, you'll want to be sure you get yours at your new address and pay the auto tax on time. Not paying the tax on time will actually cause problems. Failing to change the license plates probably won't.ReplyDelete
I have just bought a car that was exported from Japan to the UK. Is there a way of tracking where it was originally registered and what number plate it had, possible owners?ReplyDelete
Good info! Do you know if one can have shaken done in another prefecture than the one in which the car is registered? (I'll be out of prefecture during shaken time.) Cheers!ReplyDelete
Hi we are planning to sell our car in Japan . Can we sell it without number plate? a buyer is asking us to give without number plate is that possible. if we do so how to return the number plateReplyDelete
I wish to get a jiko-shiki plate for my car. How do I go about getting one?ReplyDelete
How can one find registration details about a vehicle using the plate information? Is there a website?ReplyDelete
Hi I’m trying to give my old 50cc moped to a friend. They went to city hall and they said that I needed (Haisha Tetsuzuki). I’ve asked around and in the time I’m posting no one seems to have a translation in English of what it is I need to do. Please help if you could.ReplyDelete