Ukiyo-e master Hokusai’s iconic seascape is now appearing on eligible motor vehicles in the capital.

Coming from the U.S., where each state has its own, distinctive license plate, I was pretty surprised to find out that in Japan there’s really just plate one design for private-use, full-size passenger cars: green numbers and text on a white background.

Things are a lot more interesting, though, for scooter owners in Japan, as the looser regulations for the vehicles’ plates means that visual options are wide open. What’s more, since plates are issued at a smaller-than-prefecture-wide level, they can include salutes to the local community.

So while the city of Hakone has Evangelion license plates, Tokyo’s Sumida Ward has decided to incorporate more traditional artwork, and as of this month is offering plates inspired by legendary Japanese artist Hokusai.

The most celebrated of Japan’s ukiyo-e woodblock print creators, Hokusai was born in the mid-1700s in the area that’s now classified as Sumida Ward. On November 22, a museum dedicated to the artist’s life and paintings will open in Sumida, but owners of vehicles registered in the ward, and with an engine size under 50 cc, are already able to show their respect for the hometown hero with plate based on Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa.


The top ridge of the plate is cut to mimic the crest of the wave, and the plate also features a nod to one of Sumida’s more recent claims to fame, as the Tokyo Skytree (which didn’t open until 2011), can be seen in the distance, standing to the left of the peak of Mount Fuji.

It’s been a good year for Hokusai, as last spring it was also announced that the late artist’s works will be present in Japan’s redesigned passports. Sumida Ward’s new plates are one more feather in the cap of the late artist, and sure to please everyone who sees them, with the possible exception of jealous residents of Kanagawa Prefecture, whose wave is showing up on license plates they aren’t eligible for themselves.

Related: Sumida Hokusai Museum
Source: Japaaan
Top image: Sumida-ku
Insert image: Wikipedia/Durova

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s trying to decide if a San Dimas license plate should feature Bill and Ted or an armored Saint.