From February 13, 2007, the Tsukuba license number will come into being. When you buy a new car, or when you change the ownership or address on a car, your license plate will change from a Tsuchiura number to a Tsukuba number. You can also just request to have your license plate changed to a Tsukuba number. People who live in the following areas are eligible for Tsukuba plates: Tsukuba, Koga, Yuki, Shimotsuma, Joso, Moriya, Chikusei, Bando, Sakuragawa, Tsukuba Mirai, Yachiyo, Goka, and Sakai. Apply at the Tsuchiura Branch Office of the National Agency of Vehicle Inspection (土浦自動車検査登録事務所, on Higashi Odori) after February 13. It is also possible to ask a dealer to do this for you, but you will probably have to pay an extra fee.
If you want to request specific numbers for the last four digits of your license plate, it is possible to do so. (In Canada, we call these "vanity plates".) If you want one of the most popular combinations (1、7、8、88、333、555、777、888、1111、3333、5555、7777、8888), you will have to enter a lottery, otherwise you can just try to reserve a number (on or after January 22). You can apply online for a vanity plate number or you can go to the Tsuchiura Number Center (関東陸運振興財団土浦支部).
These new licenses cost 1520 yen (backlit numbers: 3020 yen) for a regular car if you don't ask for a specific number, and 4300 yen (backlit: 5500 yen) if you do want a specific number. The prices are the same for light vehicles (軽自動車) except that the backlit plates are slightly more expensive: 4960 yen and 6620 yen, respectively.
Keep in mind that if your car is not already set up to use a backlit plate, you will have to pay to have it installed (estimated at 30,000 yen). Also, if you change your plate to a Tsukuba number, it will affect the registered data for your compusory insurance (自賠責保険, jibaiseki hoken), your optional insurance (任意保険, nin i hoken), your ETC pass for the toll expressways, etc., so be sure to make the appropriate updates.
The offices mentioned above are expected to be EXTREMELY busy for at least a week after February 13, so please plan your trip accordingly. They are also busy on Fridays and at the end of the month. Expect long lines. If you reserve a specific plate number, you will be given a "proof of reservation certificate" that is valid for up to one month, so you will not have to go to the office exactly on February 13.
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