23 residents sue to keep Setagaya off plates, claiming violation of their privacy

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Residents of Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, are suing the central government to stop the introduction of license plates that they claim will violate their privacy and are being forced on them.

The ward applied in June for a program under the transport ministry that allows cities to get their names printed on license plates.

The program, which began in 2004, has so far added 19 cities to the original 87. The ministry Friday added 10 more locations, including Setagaya, that will start appearing on plates by March 2015.

The 23 plaintiffs held a news conference Thursday to say that having Setagaya appear on their plates will be “like driving around while exposing one’s address,” since the ward is relatively small compared with other place names on license plates.

The group also claims that a survey conducted by the ward in April, which showed that 80 percent of residents supported new plates, was unbalanced.

All of the approximately 200,000 vehicles registered in Setagaya today bear plates with the name Shinagawa. Plates in Tokyo have one of five names. The others are Nerima, Adachi, Hachioji and Tama.

The transport ministry’s original intention was to promote regional development and interest. Some of the new names include the popular tourist destinations Fujisan, Izu and Nasu.

“Having Setagaya number plates will add to the city’s name value and promote it across the country,” the ward states on its website. It goes on to say that the new plates will help nurture a sense of attachment to the area among residents.

But the plaintiffs say they are accustomed to their Shinagawa plates and that the survey of residents was unfair.

“Some have told us that they were forced to sign and support the movement,” one plaintiff said Thursday.

The group said it has requested the ward to redo the survey but has been told that the 80 percent support rate represents the public’s voice.

Setagaya, largely a residential area, is home to more than 890,000 people.

  • Masa Chekov

    I think they’re concerned because Shinagawa currently has cachet as a plate name, and they’ll be losing it.

    Setagaya would be cooler to have, IMO.