National

Buddhist monk ticketed for driving while wearing a robe sparks Twitter storm

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

Skateboarding, jumping rope and wielding lightsabers aren’t things we typically expect monks to do.

That was until September, when a monk in Fukui Prefecture was ticketed for wearing his traditional robe while driving. The police officer believed the robe was impeding his ability to operate the vehicle.

In response, monks from all over Japan have taken to Twitter to demonstrate how their Buddhist attire is anything but a hindrance in daily life, using a hashtag that translates as “I can do this in a monk’s robe.”

Many have posted videos of themselves juggling, working out or doing other physical activities. One posted a clip of juggling bowling pins. Another filmed himself skateboarding down a hill. Others from around the country played hacky sack, rode scooters or performed any number of other activities to prove that wearing a robe doesn’t hinder their movement.

Zuiho Yokoyama, a monk in Yamanashi Prefecture, posted a video of himself jumping rope in a robe a day after an article thought to have prompted the stir was published by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 29. Since then, Yokoyama’s post has been liked by more than 15,000 users and retweeted more than 6,000 times.

The Twitter outbreak spurred many to compare the traditional robes to long dresses or skirts — which are, of course, legal to drive in — while others raised concerns about the inconvenience the case may cause for monks if it becomes legal precedent.

Fukui Prefecture’s regulations for enforcing the Road Traffic Law state that driving a vehicle in clothing that might affect safe driving is prohibited. The police officer is believed to have decided that the monk’s robe violated this regulation and so cited him with a traffic ticket.

According to local reports, the monk was driving to a memorial service when he was stopped in Fukui on Sept. 16 around 10 a.m. The monk was told he could not wear kimono to drive and received a ticket with a ¥6,000 fine. The violation, according to the ticket, was “driving in attire that hinders vehicle operation.”

The monk is refusing to pay the fine and said he would like to “clearly state at a trial that I can drive safely in a monk’s robe.”

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