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You Can Now Legally Dance the Night Away in Japan

2 min read
Japanese night club

Japanese night club, Tokyo Nightlife. Photo Credit: dat’.

Japan’s national Diet (parliament) voted to overturn a 67-year-old law that prohibited dancing after midnight in bars and nightclubs.

The vote was in response to requests from the public and recommendations from police and parliamentary committees about ways to make Japan more “visitor-friendly” in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The decades-old law, called the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business (known colloquially as the fueiho), was originally enacted during the American occupation of Japan after World War II to combat prostitution at “dance halls” along with concerns that such areas promoted drug use and violence.

The law was so wide-reaching that certain dance classes involving paired dancing were technically illegal.

During the 1950s, following the end of the American occupation of Japan outside of Okinawa, Japanese police began to relax their enforcement of the law. The fueiho went effectively unenforced for decades until 2010, when a brawl in an Osaka nightclub resulted in the death of a 22-year-old student. Police began raiding nightclubs and shutting them down for licensing violations and arrested several DJs and club patrons.

There was a perceived crackdown on late-night dancing in Japan’s capital, when the Tokyo Metropolitan government began to focus on public morals in Japan’s capital.

The shutdowns and arrests starting in 2010 drew criticism from the public, who claimed the government was waging a “war on dance.”

Revisions to the law will come into effect in June 2016. While dancing after midnight will be permitted, there will also be the stipulation that the club must have a light level of 10 lux, roughly the amount of lighting a movie theatre has during the pre-show.

Any clubs that do not meet the minimum lighting requirement will need to continue to abide by the current law.

A petition with 150,000 signatures requesting the government to allow all-night dancing was submitted in 2013. As well, overseas visitors to Japan are expected to steadily increase in light of the upcoming Summer Olympics, causing politicians to realize foreigners wishing to participate in Japan’s nightlife would be confused over the midnight dancing ban. The lifting of the midnight dancing ban likely comes as good news to many people.

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Written by Matt McClellan
Global Voices

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