Japan’s love of silly puns merges with its love of cute animal motifs.

For a country that prides itself on high-level design, Japan’s license plates are pretty drab. If you’ve got a private-use passenger car, you get dark green numbers and text on a plain white field, regardless of where in the country your vehicle is registered.

More opportunities for aesthetically pleasing license plates exist, though, in the scooter and moped sector. For example, as of this month, if you live in the town of Shunan, Yamaguchi Prefecture, you can get a license plate with cat paw prints on it.

As is often the case in Japan, the whole thing started with a pun. In Japanese, the sound of a cat meowing is “nyan,” and so since 2017 Shunan has been promoting itself as Shunyan, telling travelers that the laid-back city is just the place to spend a day or two relaxing like a content cat and enjoying the coastal community’s laid-back lifestyle. As the promotions picked up speed, the city hit upon the idea of adding some feline appeal to its license plates.

The plates feature an outline of a kitty’s head behind the kanji for Shunan’s “nan,” and they all bear the hiragana ね, pronounced ne, which is also the first syllable in the word neko/”cat.” Each paw print takes the place of the empty digit that, when assigned to a plate, is ordinarily designated with a midline-high dot, like this ・.

Initial availability is limited to just 400 plates, thought the city has specified that as the available quantity for this year, suggesting that they might be making a second batch next year. The plates can be used with bikes with engine displacements of 50 cc or less, and applications can be made for both newly registered vehicles or as replacements for plates on vehicles which are already registered. The plates themselves are free, in the sense that there’s no premium charged over the fees for getting a regular set of plates.


There is one final requirement, which is that applicants must live in Shunan. Still, even if you’re not currently a resident, moving to the town might be worth it to get your hands on one of these plates, and living in Shunan would also put you in close proximity to Japan’s fabled boob temple.

Source, images: @Press
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