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The very first time she came over to the swinging bachelor pad/pitiful bunker I used to live in back when we were dating, my wife immediately noticed that the one and only interior decoration I had was a California license plate mounted on the wall. To me, the blue on white design is immediately nostalgic and reassuring.

In Japan, though, ordinarily the only thing that differentiates plates issued in different parts of the country are the kanji characters written across their tops, so they don’t provide quite the same immediate visual shorthand of local pride. Unless you happen to live in the city of Hakone, where motorists can show their love of their hometown and giant robot anime all at once with new Evangelion license plates.

The vast majority of modern-day anime is set in Tokyo, which is understandable seeing as it’s the country’s political, financial, and entertainment capital. Still, the rest of Japan can feel a little left out once in a while.

Take Kanagawa Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, for example. With over nine million people, it’s the second-most populated administrative district in Japan, but rarely shows up in animated form (a few scenes in the classic Macross notwithstanding).

But while the frequency of Kanagawa’s anime appearances is undeniably low, almost the entirety of Evangelion, the biggest Japanese animation biggest hit of this generation, takes place there.

This may come as a surprise for some viewers, as while Evangelion’s dialogue is 30 percent obfuscating religious references, 30 percent complicated pseudo-science, and 30 percent rambling sexual frustration, the remaining 10 percent clearly has the characters saying they live someplace called Tokyo 3.

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A closer look, though, reveals some discrepancies between Tokyo 3 and Japan’s real-life capital. There are two things present in the anime’s setting that are absent from the actual Tokyo: the numerical accoutrements and the surrounding mountains.

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That topographical difference is because the location of Evangelion’s Tokyo 3 corresponds with the city of Hakone, in Kanagawa Prefecture.

▼ Hakone

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Hakone is already a pretty big tourist draw, thanks to its proximity to Mt. Fuji, numerous hot springs, and beautiful fields of pampas grass, making it a popular vacation spot for families and couples. In recent years, the local tourism association has drawn in anime fans, too, by playing up the town’s connection to the anime with Evangelion-themed sightseeing maps, vending machines, and souvenir shops.

▼ Plus cakes, the alpha and the omega of tourism in Japan

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Hakone’s newest Eva-inspired move, though, is for locals. Starting on March 25, owners of motorized bicycles, scooters, and microcars registered in the city can apply for Evangelion license plates.

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Each of the four differently colored plates features the series’ titular giant robot in profile, with Hakone landmarks such as Hakone Shrine, Lake Ashinoko, and Mt. Fuji in the background. There’s also a crescent moon, which has no particular connection to Evangelion or Hakone, but is simply there because it looks awesome.

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Availability is limited to 390 plates, but given that only 769 vehicles currently registered in Hakone fit the criteria, there should be enough to go around. Interested parties can submit their application at the Hakone Tax Bureau, which unfortunately doesn’t yet sell “My other car is unit 01” bumper stickers.

Source: Anime! Anime!
Top image: Anime! Anime!
Insert images: Pipo Camoderna, Coyotzin, Ciao 3, Yahoo! Japan, Anime! Anime!, Webry