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2013年2月16日 (土)

Bicycle Tax & License Plates

次回、この記事の日本語版を投稿します。

I have mentioned repeatedly how "bicycles" in Japan during the early 1950's were prized possessions; similar, if not even exceeding, that of automobile ownership today.  They were the only affordable private transportation for the vast majority of households and small businesses. They were expensive costing around two months' salary or more; people and businesses paid on installment plans to purchase them; those who could not afford them rented them by the hour; carrier cycles and utility cycles attached with trailers to haul goods filled the niche of trucks for local small businesses; much like luxury cars of today, bicycles proudly bore a fender ornament(link Japanese only) indicating the manufacturer.  And, to drive this point of bicycles having a similar status as that of automobiles, one often overlooked fact is that from 1950-1958 bicycles in Japan were taxed and had license plates.Jitenshaquest_1
This tax was implemented by the local municipality (town/city) whereby each bicycle had to be registered, and after paying the tax of 200 yen, a "license plate"was attached.  Since the local municipality oversaw the implementation of the "bicycle tax", the design of these "license plates" varied from town to town.

One of the more popular form of license plate design were those attached to the back of the rear fender.
P1190317

The license plate had the name of the municipality and number.  Much like a license plate on today's automobile which typically bears the state or prefecture.P1190316

P1190315

One unique and interesting concept was a form of the license plate attached to the handlebars.  The interesting point is that the design incorporated an anti-theft device. Notice the license plate below bears the numbers 1294.  Also,  if you look closely, there appears to be a strip running across the middle of the numbers.  This strip is actually a removable sliding plate.
Jitenshaquest_1
Photo courtesy of Jitensha Quest
自転車クエスト

Remember that bicycles were prized possessions, cost two months' salary and were not that difficult to steal.  When the sliding plate is removed it leaves a red blank shown in the photo below.
Jitenshaquest_2
Photo courtesy of Jitensha Quest 自転車クエスト

The intention was that when the owner arrived at the desired destination, after locking the bicycle, the owner removed the sliding plate and took it with them. When they returned to the bicycle they inserted the sliding plate.  If, while they were away, someone were to steal the bicycle the red blank was a dead give away that the bicycle was stolen. Like many things in life, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but was unpractical as the owner could lose the sliding plate and be mistaken for having stolen his own bicycle!

Many thanks to the bicycle shop Jitensha Quest (Japanese only) located in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture for allowing me to use the above photos.  If you have photos of any interesting license plates that you would like to share with other vintage bicycle enthusiasts please send them to showajitensha@hotmail.co.jp

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