Buddhist Monks Are Flexing on Twitter to Protest a Japanese Traffic Law

The Japanese hashtag #僧衣でできるもん, “I can do it in monk’s robes,” is more than just a Twitter thing.
January 4, 2019, 4:37pm
Buddhist monks in Japan are showing off their skills on Twitter to protest a traffic law that assumes they cannot drive while wearing tradition robes.
Image: Twitter/@HeavyMetalOShow

Buddhist monks in Japan are using Twitter as it was intended—to protest the police and share fun videos that we can all enjoy.

The monks took to Twitter after a clergy member was ticketed in September for driving in his ceremonial robes. According to the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, a police officer in Fukui prefecture claimed the man’s long kimono—a particular style that fell below the knees—impaired his ability to drive. He was ordered to pay a fine of 6,000 yen (roughly $55) and reportedly told, “You can’t drive in that kimono.”


But instead of paying the fine, which he is resisting, the monk inspired the delightful Twitter movement #僧衣でできるもん, or “I can do it in monk’s robes.”

Since December, monks throughout Japan have been tweeting videos of themselves jumping rope, playing instruments, and doing other skilled tasks while dressed in religious attire using the hashtag.

“In my case I am doing juggling…wearing [my robes] and demonstrating devil stick [a type of baton],” Tetsuya Hangai, a monk and juggling performer in Fukushima prefecture, told me in a Twitter DM. “It will be the trend.”

Another monk, Shoshan in Chiba prefecture, showed off his lightsaber moves.

Zuiho Yokoyama, a monk and social worker in Yamanashi prefecture, effortlessly jumped rope.

Niigata prefecture monk Hiroaki Asada filmed himself riding a hoverboard.

The monks aren’t only upset by the assumption that their clothing is a hindrance. They’re also disputing what some have called an arbitrary rule. “There is no clear wording in the law” that was invoked to penalize the monk, Hangai said.

Fukui’s traffic regulations prohibit clothing that may hinder driving. But not all Buddhist robes are banned, and an officer may choose whether or not to issue a ticket. By comparison, other prefectures’ laws are more specific—in Miyazaki, the law goes as far as depicting problematic footwear such as geta.

The monk and the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha sect, to which he belongs, oppose the rule, Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Many Buddhist monks drive to visit parishioners, and such a law not only targets them but is too ambiguous for comfort, a monk at the Jodo Shinshu temple in Kagawa prefecture wrote in a blog post.

Before receiving the traffic violation, the monk in Fukui was en route to a Buddhist memorial service, according to Yomiuri Shimbun. He has since consulted a lawyer, and is ignoring a second request for payment. The case may lead to a trial.

Meanwhile, his compatriots are seemingly having fun dunking on the establishment.

“Wow,” exclaimed one monk. “Just a few more followers! I am glad somehow!!! Worldly desires!!!”