'I can do it in robes': Japanese monks post social media videos to prove garment is no impediment

  • The clips came in response to an unnamed monk being fined in Fukui prefecture recently for driving in ‘constricting’ robes
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2019, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2019, 4:50am

Buddhist monks in Japan have posted videos on social media to prove their traditional attire is no obstacle to safe driving after one of their brethren was fined.

Police said an officer had stopped the unnamed monk, who is in his 40s, on a road in Fukui prefecture in western Japan recently and told him he could not drive in his “constricting” robes.

The officer issued a ticket that described him as “driving in a kimono that could affect safety” and fined him 6,000 yen (US$55).

Recent news reports of the incident sparked a show of solidarity from fellow monks in displays of asceticism-meets-athleticism.

Several posted videos of themselves performing a series of activities – from juggling and skateboarding to skipping and playing the guitar – accompanied by the hashtag “I can do it in robes”, in Japanese.

Another clip shows a barefooted, shaven-headed man in robes wielding a Star Wars lightsaber.

The clips prompted a wave of online praise for the monks’ agility, while some commenters wondered if the police were similarly unforgiving of drivers wearing long dresses.

Others praised the monks for their show of resistance. “If there’s one thing that the [I can do it in robes hashtag] taught me, it’s don’t f**k with Japanese monks,” wrote one Twitter user. Another encouraged his followers to “copy paste this hashtag to see the baddest monks on the planet sending a message to the Japanese police”.

The monk who was fined was on his way to a memorial service and was wearing robes that stretched below his knees, according to the Yomiuri newspaper, which quoted him as saying that safety had been uppermost in his mind throughout his 20 years as a driver.

His Kyoto-based order, meanwhile, has complained that strict enforcement of the traffic regulation on “unsafe” clothing could inhibit monks’ ability to perform their religious duties.

The monk’s ordeal is not over, however. He has so far refused to pay the fine and has not responded to follow-up demands, Yomiuri said, meaning he could be formally charged for violating road traffic laws and have his case sent to court.

If that happens, the monk told the newspaper, he would “clearly state at a trial that I can drive safely in my robes”.