Japan police nix traffic ticket for monk who drove wearing ritual robe

A man sits in the driver’s seat wearing a ritual coat over a robe to demonstrate the type of apparel worn by the monk who was given a traffic ticket in Fukui Prefecture.
PHOTO: The Japan News/Asia News Network

FUKUI, Japan - The Fukui prefectural police have decided to cancel the traffic ticket given to a Buddhist monk for driving a car in a ritual robe in the prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The police also told the monk, who resides in the prefecture, on Saturday that they would not send papers on him to public prosecutors for violating the traffic regulations, saying, "There's not sufficient evidence, and we were not able to find traffic violation."

The monk, who is in his 40s, has refused to pay the penalty and showed an intention to fight the ticket.

Police pulled the monk over in Fukui city in September as he drove a car while wearing a long ritual robe, and issued him a traffic violation ticket.

He was ordered to pay a fine of ¥6,000 for allegedly violating prefectural traffic regulations that prohibit driving in "clothes that might affect safe driving." However, he did not pay the fine and did not respond to a demand for the payment.

The monk was wearing a ritual black coat over an ankle-length white robe when he was pulled over.

The police said they ticketed him because the bottom width of the white robe was narrow, holding his thighs, knees and feet close together, while the sleeves hanged loosely. They reasoned that the monk would not be able to easily move his legs in the robe, creating a risk of not being able to apply the brakes quickly enough, and that his sleeves could get hooked on a gear lever or other equipment, they said.

The monk submitted a rebuttal statement, saying, "A police officer only spoke to me through my window. As I didn't get out of the car, the officer couldn't have checked out my feet."

On Saturday morning, a prefectural police official in charge of this case visited the monk's home and told him that papers pertaining to his case would not be sent to prosecutors. The monk was also told that he would not need to pay a fine.

"We have caused you anxiety," the monk quoted the official as saying.

In terms of a traffic ticket, there are cases in which prefectural police cancel traffic tickets after examining whether there was a violation and consequently finding out there was a factual error.

"After closely examining this case once again, we were not able to locate sufficient evidence to confirm a violation," an official of the prefectural police said.


The monk seemed to be unsatisfied with the explanation provided by the police, because he was only told that they cancelled the traffic ticket. "The police brought the case to a close all of a sudden, but nothing has been resolved," he said.

When he was told about the cancellation, he asked the official what would happen about driving in a ritual robe, but he did not receive a clear answer, he said.

"Even though the ticket was cancelled, I won't be able to drive my car until they give me a clear answer about driving in a ritual robe," the monk said.

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