Readers of Unseen Japan might remember the Buddhist monk in Fukui Prefecture who was recently cited with a ticket for driving while in his robes. The ticketing officer told him that the robes would obstruct his driving, and thus constituted a public danger.
When news of the ticket leaked online, it sparked an online movement of monks using the Twitter hashtag #僧衣でできるもん (soui de dekiru mon), or "I can do it in robes". Arguing that their everyday dress was designed to allow for easy movement, monks all around the country decided to prove it by uploading video of themselves doing everything from jumping rope to playing hackey-sack to juggling. The news quickly broke out of Japan and made international headlines because, well, who doesn't want to see a monk juggling bowling pins?
Now comes news from the monk that, on the 26th, he received word from prefectural police that they were throwing out his ticket. The monk, however, was far from satisfied. When he asked the same officer, "What happens the next time I drive in my robes?", he didn't receive a clear reply.
The ticket was voided, but so long as no one can give me a clear answer as to whether I can drive in my robes, I can't drive from here on out.
Of the 47 prefectures in Japan, around 12 have regulations regarding how people can dress when they drive. Some have clear guidelines around items such as footwear; e.g., many explicitly forbid wearing geta (下駄) or any other form of wooden footwear. But most other regulations are vaguely worded to forbid "clothing that would interfere with the operation of a vehicle". That obviously leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and allows for the law to be enforced differently even by officers in the same prefecture.
If I were a betting man, I'd say we'll see police come to some sort of tacit understanding that they'll "leave the monks alone". Until such clarity arrives, monks who get behind the wheel in any of the 12 prefectures with vaguely worded clothing regulations will remain outlaws.
(JP) Link: Monks Ask, "And the Next Time We Drive?"...No Clear Reply from Police
「何も解決していない」僧衣での運転で違反を取り消されるも不満 - ライブドアニュース
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.
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