Online videos of rope skipping, juggling and backflipping Japanese Buddhist monks in their robes have gone viral, after police issued a traffic violation ticket to a monk on the grounds that driving in the traditional attire is dangerous.
The videos, with the hashtag #soi de dekirumon, which means "I can do this in monk's robes," have been posted on Twitter and other social networking service in an apparent protest to policing linked to monk attire.
The controversy began after a monk in his 40s was stopped by a police officer when he was driving a car in the central Japan prefecture of Fukui on Sept. 16 last year.
"You are breaking the rules with your clothing," the monk from the prefecture was told by the officer before being fined 6,000 yen ($55), according to the Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto, the head temple of his sect.
The monk at that time was wearing a knee-length black robe "fuho" over a white "hakue," which is similar to yukata, a casual kimono. They have long and wide sleeves.
The temple has said it has never heard of someone being accused of a traffic offense due to clothing and the monk has refused to pay the fine.
"This problem can affect our whole sect, so the punishment is unacceptable," said a person in charge of the temple's public relations, noting that monks often drive cars wearing robes when they head to memorial services.
The Fukui prefectural police have insisted that the police officer issued the traffic violation ticket not just because of the attire, but the way it had been worn.
In light of the prefectural traffic rules, the police said they judged that the monk cannot safely drive because the fuho, with about 30 centimeter-long hanging sleeves, could get entangled with the gear selector, and the hakue, which covers the body tightly, could make it difficult for the driver to quickly step on the brake pedal.
"We don't think safety will be undermined as long as the driver rolls up his sleeves and makes sure that they can easily move their legs," an official of the traffic enforcement division said.