Almost all of the monks that one sees begging on the street in Japan are fakes, but this guy’s shabby clothes make him particularly easy to spot as an imposter. Although some Japanese Buddhist sects do have a tradition of begging for alms, it is usually done in groups, and they will have the name of their temple or sect prominently displayed if they are legitimate. In 14 years, I have seen hundreds of fake monks, but only saw real ones begging once.

Editor’s note: this post was originally published in March 2008 and has been updated.