Can you spot the Tokyo cultural salute in the sakura’s pattern?

It’s no secret that Japan’s favorite flower is the sakura, and because of that city planners will often incorporate cherry blossoms into their town layouts. A street lined with sakura trees, or a park filled with groves of them, can really add a sense of cultured prestige and community pride.

And so the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has announced a plan by which residents and visitors stand to see a lot more sakura in Japan’s capital. Even better, you’ll be able to see them all year long, since the plan is to add cherry blossoms to Tokyo’s license plates.

After decades of dictating that standard passenger car plates consist of nothing more than dark green text and numbers on a plain white field, the Japanese government has been rapidly loosening design regulations in recent years (which is why there’s probable a license plate with an adorable puppy on the way). With essentially a blank canvas on which to display what makes their part of Japan special, Tokyo has decided on Somei Yoshino cherry blossom trees, not just because they’re the most prolific variety of sakura in Japan, but because the Somei-Yoshino blossom is Tokyo’s prefectural flower.

▼ Lightweight kei-class compact cars typically have black text on a yellow field, but for the Tokyo plates they get a yellow border.

In addition to the Somei-Yoshino, and “Tokyo” written in both brushstroke and typed-style fonts in the upper right corner, there are two other nods to Japan’s capital included in the artwork. The obvious one, of course, is Tokyo Tower, but the other is found in the geometric pattern on the cherry blossom trees. Called “shippo,” the series of overlapping circles is an auspicious symbol representing the seven treasures of Buddhism, and was a popular motif on Edo kiriko, a type of cut glass craftsmanship that flourished in Tokyo during the samurai era.

▼ The green-frame plate is for commercial vehicles.

The license plate design was chosen through a poll with 11,742 responses from Tokyo residents and non-residents who operate a vehicle with Tokyo plates for work or other reasons. The winning design received 57.1 percent of the votes, followed by a design with a different Edo kiriko pattern garnering 23.7 percent…

…and a more direct Somei Yoshino depiction coming in third with just 19.2 percent, perhaps because it got out sakura-ed by the winning plate.

In Japan, license plates are issued at the sub-prefectural local level, but the Somei-Yoshino/Tokyo Tower plates will be available for all cars registered in Tokyo. The example plates here are for registration in Tokyo’s Shinagawa (品川) district, but drivers from Koto, Setagaya, Suginami, Itabashi, Katsushika, Nerima, Adachi, Tama, and Hachioji will be able to use it on their cars as well. The first five of those also already have their own individual plates, meaning once the Somei-Yoshino/Tokyo Tower plates go into circulation, drivers from those parts of Tokyo will have three different plates to choose from, as sticking with the existing green text/plain white field plates is also an option.

▼ Individual plates for Koto, Setagaya, Suginami, Itabashi, Katsushika

The cherry blossom license plates still have to get final approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, a process that isn’t scheduled to be finished until July, but barring any unforeseen problems the sakura should start blooming on Tokyo’s license plates in October of next year.

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Government via Japaaan
Top image: Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Insert images: Tokyo Metropolitan Government (1, 2)
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