Category: Weird Articles
Published on Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00
Tokyo used to be one of the hottest cities in the world to experience a wonderful nightlife, but all of that has recently changed much to the disappointment of party-freaks everywhere ever since the local police started enforcing a very old law that had been ignored for at least half a century. According to this law, commercial establishments cannot host dance parties unless they have a valid license.
This bizarre law brings to mind the movie Footloose from 1984 which is a classic tale of a city teenager who moved to a small town where rock music and dancing have been out-lawed, but his free and rebellious spirit manages to change the mindset of the town folks. Maybe Japan needs someone like that to “free” them again.
In order to obtain a dancing license, venues must have at least 66 square meters of unobstructed floor space for people to dance. They also need to ensure that all dancing stops at 1 a.m. (what?! That's when all the fun begins!), which the law says is curfew. Failure to comply with the rules will result in club owners getting into trouble with the law, which includes imprisonment for weeks, or having their businesses shut down.
“Dancing is not a crime,” pointed out Ryo Isobe, a music writer from Tokyo. “But the current situation can easily make people believe that dancing is a crime. Under this law, there are almost no legal nightclubs in Japan. All-night dance parties are against the law.”
It still remains a mystery why the police brought this law back in effect again. And since it has not been enforced in over 50 years, no one really knows the existence of such a law. But the police have been quite ruthless so far, clamping down on clubs with an iron fist and rounding up anyone who breached the licensing regulations.
“Originally this law was brought in after World War II to regulate prostitution in dance halls. But the law has never changed and the police have started to enforce it after all these years,” said Yukata Fukui, a nightclub manager.
Masatoshi Kanemitsu's small Osaka club was raided by 45 policemen who lined his 20 patrons up against the wall. “I was arrested and taken to the police station,” he said. “They wanted me to admit that I’d let people dance without a license. Then the police raided my home. In total, I was kept in custody for 22 days. They asked me several questions, such as whether I was involved in organized crime. They also asked me about drugs.”
Wow, this is actually beginning to sound a whole lot like Footloose. In the movie, the conservative town's reason for banning dancing is because they associate it with drugs and gangsterism.
According to critics, the reason for the bizarre change in the police force’s attitude is that they’re trying to use the decades-old law to crack down on gangsters. This way, they don’t need to waste time getting warrants for drug searches. Unfortunately, it’s not just nightclubs that fall under the radar with this strange law. Independent dance schools are also among the affected.
“Under this law, dance schools are not allowed to operate unless we obtain accreditation from the official body,” said George Takahashi, a tango teacher. “But there are no official tango bodies to give us accreditation, so we are not supposed to be operating.”
It is said that the police only targets certain types of dance styles taught in these classes because there's “a possibility that the pleasure-loving atmosphere between men and women could become excessive.” So George and other administrative staff of dance schools are now living in constant fear of a police raid even though their middle-aged students are highly unlikely to break out in sudden flashes of unrestrained passion.
“Dance is meant to be good for men and women to become closer,” said George. “It helps with relationships. Dance is a free thing and a natural part of life.”
Many Japanese are not taking very well to the enforcement of this old law. “I think it’s a ridiculous and outdated law,” said Isobe. “What’s wrong with having a pleasure-loving atmosphere between men and women?” Kanemitsu agrees that the law is completely ridiculous. “It’s about the police showing off their power. I think people overseas will regard Japan as stupid.”
Hmm... there's a lot of varying opinions of what people think about Japan, namely the most popular one is: Weird. But crazy or not, several venues across Tokyo have taken the necessary precautions and posted “No Dancing” signs, and some are even sending their staff onto the floor to request customers to stop moving to the music. It has gotten so bad that nightclubs are now calling themselves “entertainment spaces” and the word “dance” has almost disappeared from all advertising copy.
A few creative nightclubs though, have came up with their own ways to getting around the law. Like this one place called Asakusabashi Tensai Sansu Jyku, where they realized that there’s no law against kneading. So they created an event called ‘Techno Udon’, where patrons get to stomp on plastic dough-filled bags (in time to music, of course). The dough is then cut up and boiled to make udon, a thick wheat noodle. So technically, they’re not dancing, they’re just making noodles!