Police charge then drop charges on Buddhist monk

Police here dropped a traffic violation case against a robe-wearing Buddhist priest after monks around Japan posted videos showing they could perform a number of tasks while wearing the supposedly hazardous clothing.

 

After The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the case in December, Buddhist monks around Japan posted videos on Twitter showing them in the “soi” priest’s clothing and performing various activities, including double unders and juggling.

 

photo credit to: https://www.asiaone.com

 

One of the videos, designed to prove that one can move flexibly in the monk clothes, received more than 1 million views. A police source denied “any link between the decision and the media reports” about the case and the uploaded videos.

 

The Honganji school lambasted police immediately after the priest was fined, arguing, “We have never heard of cases where the robe has posed any danger during drives, and the school will fully back the priest if a lawsuit is filed.”

 

Under the Road Traffic Law, the Fukui prefectural police regulations stipulate that motorists “should not wear geta, slippers and other footwear or garments that could interfere with the driver’s operations.”

 

Fukui police fined the priest on grounds that the restrictive bottom part of the “hakui” (kimono) could make it difficult to apply the brakes and the loose sleeves of the “fuho” (semiformal coat) could be caught by the gear lever.

 

“Simply wearing soi (while driving) does not immediately constitute a violation,” the statement said. “It is limited only to instances where the clothing of drivers obviously interferes with wheel and other operations. We will carefully examine each case.”

 

 

Hisao Honma, a lawyer and a Buddhist monk, criticized the Fukui prefectural police regulations for being vague. The priest who was fined agreed, saying, “Police should provide more detailed guidance on whether driving in soi constitutes a traffic violation.”

 

Prefectural public safety commissions are allowed to set regulations for motorists as necessary. While all 47 prefectures have rules on footwear, only 15 prefectures, including Fukui, have set regulations on garments.

 

Reference: Robe-wearing priest off the hook after monk videos go viral

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