A complaint about a racial offensive against Americans of Japanese origin prompted Kansas to recall hundreds of license plates containing the combination of random letters "JAP".
The problem occurred in October 2017 when Keith Kawamoto, 70, saw a Kansas license plate near his home in Los Angeles and took a picture. Kawamoto then wrote several letters to Kansas officials, including Governor Jeff Colyer.
"I let them know that it was considered a very pejorative racial insult and I do not think it should be allowed anywhere," Kawamoto said.
The Kansas motor vehicle division apologized, but Kawamoto asked Kansas to recall all the plates containing the combination of three letters.
The Pacific Citizen, the newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League, has published for the first time the photo of Kawamoto on the plate of Kansas.
When Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old American-American living in Abilene, Kansas, saw the story in The Pacific Citizen, she said it had brought back memories of her childhood.
"It was not the right time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbor and World War II," Johnson said. "I remember very well a child called" Jap "- and how I felt so small and hurt by calling him so."
Johnson conceded that Kansas officials probably did not know "what it means now because it was World War II, a few generations ago".
With her husband Rick, the Kansas couple decided to do what Kawamoto did not do: remember the plates and leave the road.
Rachel Whitten, a spokeswoman for Kansas, said the issue had been reviewed by the ministry's review panel, which last month decided to remove the current license plates from the letters and prevent them from being used.
"It was very gratifying to know that a member of the government was willing to hear our version of the story, to recognize it and to act proactively as quickly as possible," said Rick Johnson. .
The Kansas Department of Revenue said that there were 731 active registrations containing this combination of random letters on standard registration plates. Vehicle owners received a letter dated Tuesday asking them to return the plaque to their county's vehicle office within 30 days for a free replacement.
Associated Press contributed to this report.