Dance dance revolution: Japan to lift its 67-year-old ban on dancing

AFP Photo/Yoshikazu Tsuno
Japan announced that its infamous “no-dancing law” will be lifted in 2016, which means next year Japanese clubbers will be free to dance all night long – something they have not been allowed to do for the past 67 years.

After years of hot discussions, the Japanese government voted last week to lift the 1948 “fueiho” law (short version of Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business) which banned dancing in clubs and bars after midnight.

The law was officially introduced after World War II, aiming to put an end to prostitution usually thought to have been taking place at venues where dancing occurred. It prohibits dancing anywhere without a special license – and even at a place that has one, you can only dance until midnight.

The law was difficult to enforce, so for decades police were lenient about it. However raids mounted after the 2010 death of a 22-year-old student in Osaka, following a fight in a night club. It led to arrests and drug-tests among several club-owners and DJs, as well as the forced closure of several clubs.

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Musicians and music-loving members of society all around Japan came together to call to ban the law to allow people to freely dance after midnight. The “Let’s Dance” campaign led by famous Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto garnered 150,000 signatures to abolish the unwanted law in 2013. In 2014 a group of non-partisan members of parliament was formed to submit a revision of the law to the parliament.

The draft was then updated by the government and police before its ratification last week. The new version still has one restriction, though: People can only stay on the dance floor after midnight if there are appropriate levels of light.

Clubs will have to be illuminated with at least 10 lux, the equivalent of twilight or a movie theater before the movie has started. This requirement is supposed to discourage crime and “indecent behavior”. Police will reportedly be checking clubs to make sure there is enough light. Those which are too dimly-lit, will be classified as “adult entertainment areas”.

The change comes as Japan prepares to welcome waves of tourists and visitors to the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games.

Japan is not the only country which limits public dancing. In March this year, Swedish politicians voted to lift a ban which forbids “spontaneous dancing” at clubs and bars without a special dancing license. The bill failed, however, which means that the owners of such venues still need governmental permission to allow their patrons to put on their dancing shoes.