For some reason I have had a couple of people ask me independently over the last few days whether we could help them get authentic Japanese license plates for their cars to give them that real JDM look. Anyway, I thought this would be of interest to others, so this is the story:
You can sometimes find real Japanese plates on sale on eBay. I would say that at best these are in a legal gray area, and at worst their sale is illegal. Basically, when a car is exported or (I believe) when it is recycled here, the original license plates have to be returned to the Rikuun Kyoku (the Department of Transportation). We have had some plates hanging around a few years ago, but that was when someone had sent them to us in error and we could not figure out who to return them to. Even with these, we passed them on to the Department of Transportation anyway as we knew that would be where they were supposed to end up.
So the only ways you could get your hands on authentic plates in Japan would be to either steal them from a parked car, or to remove them from an abandoned vehicle. The latter may or may not be technically illegal, but the former definitely would be.
If you want a sort-of authentic-looking plate, you can order one from this site. The thing is, any real Japanese person will immediately be able to spot it as a fake, as the kanji at the top are clearly supposed to be “Nagano”, but they are written in the reverse order.
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