Why do JDM Cars have strange license plate holes?

Have you ever looked closely at a JDM vehicle (such as the J-Spec Supra) rear end and wondered why cars for the Japanese market do have ugly holes where the license plate would attach?

J-Spec Supra rear end with rear bumper cut-out
Export-Spec Supra rear end without cut-out
JDM Toyota Cresta

Well, there’s a little story to it. Unlike any other country in the world registering a car in Japan is a huge job at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which doesn’t end with the plate being simply attached to your car.
Like everything in Japan, every detail needs to be controlled and monitored, hence even the act of attaching the license plate is not a simple job. To prevent any unauthorized removal of the license plate such as theft or license plate fraud, a seal is being attached to the plate which is the sole responsibility of the DMV, no simple citizen may perform this job.

Source: Motovique

The seal carries the prefecture’s letter. It is basically a washer beneath the upper left license plate attach bolt, covered by the aluminum foil-like seal. So anyone removing the plate is forced to break the seal and therefore violating Japanese law. The bolt needs to be permanently attached to the car’s frame.

Japanese Plate on a Supra with the prefecture seal covering the attach bolt

Now with Japan being an extremely customer-friendly country, what if I need to remove the customer’s rear bumper at the workshop for any maintenance or repair work? Shall I loose my face by asking him to see the DMV after the job has been done? Of course not!

The following pages from the Japanese Supra workshop manual will educate you on how to carefully remove the rear bumper without actually removing the plate, running the license plate throught the cut-out.


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