Kumamoto’s goodwill ambassador is even more popular than Mt. Fuji!

For a country famous for producing cars, Japan has long had pretty boring license plates. Until recently, full-size passenger car plates were the same for every prefecture: green text and numbers on a plain white field.

Last October, though, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism finally allowed for greater variety, as 41 localities were allowed to begin issuing optional alternative plates with artistic salutes to local culture and scenery. Designs included a scene of majestic Mt. Fuji for drivers in Shizuoka Prefecture, or the legendary eight-headed dragon Yamata no Orochi in Shimane Prefecture.

But after six months, neither of those is the most popular new design. Between the start of October and the end of March, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism received applications for 70,700 special plates, and the most requested was the one for Kumamoto Prefecture, which features beloved bear and regional mascot character Kumamon!

The popular plates actually give drivers a double dose of the ursine icon. Not only is he peeking out from the upper right corner, the white space in the center of the plates is an outline of Kumamon’s head, ears, and chubby cheeks. Along the outer edges of the plate are the emblems of the Kato and Hosokawa samurai clans, who ruled the Kumamoto area for roughly 300 years, starting in the late 16th century.

Kumamon probably got a bit of a boost in that the Kumamon plates can be issued to vehicles registered anywhere in Kumamoto Prefecture. Many of the other plates are issued for drivers in specific parts of their respective prefectures, such as the above-mentioned Mt. Fuji plate, which is only available for vehicles registered with the Fujimiya branch of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and not to other drivers in Shizuoka Prefecture.

▼ Not that Kumamon doesn’t deserve all the love he gets, though.

The other special plates in the top five were Hiroshima Prefecture’s Fukuyama (8,202 plates, logo of the Hiroshima Carp professional baseball team), Miyagi Prefecture’s Sendai (4,333 plates, statue of samurai lord Date Masamune and Tanabata festival decorations), Ehime Prefecture’s Ehime (3,547 plates, local mascot Mikyan and a mandarin orange), and Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fuji-san (3,156 plates, Mt. Fuji).

Kumamon is already one of Japan’s most prolific mascots, thanks to a licensing deal that allows designers to use his likeness free of charge as long as they meet certain conditions. A little extra cuteness is always a good thing, though, and maybe having Kumamoto’s adorable ambassador peeking out at motorists who’re stuck in traffic will help keep road rage in the prefecture to a minimum.

Source: NHK News Web via Otakomu
Top image: Kumamoto Prefecture
Insert images: Kumamoto Prefecture, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Follow Casey on Twitter, where now he kind of wants a Bill and Ted license plate for San Dimas.