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Japanese clubs caught in crossfire of ‘war on dancing’

Around a dozen small Japanese venues are thought to have been affected by a recent police crackdown on unauthorised late-night dancing.

Official attitudes to public dancing in Japan are governed by the so-called fūeihō law (fūzoku eigyō-tō no kisei oyobi gyōmu no tekiseika-tō ni kansuru hōritsu, or ‘businesses affecting public morals regulation law’), a piece of legislation that dates to the post-Second World War US occupation and primarily regulates sex work.

While some of the fūeihō’s provisions were relaxed in 2015 – allowing clubs with dancing to open past midnight, after approval from local authorities – the revised law still requires venues to apply for a nightclub licence, the granting of which is conditional on the club’s size and location. The 2015-spec fūeihō requires that clubs have more than 33 square meters of uninterrupted floor space, as well as be located in a designated dancing area.

Among the unlicensed venues to have been raided by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department since the start of 2018 are Aoyama Hachi, a small club in the Shibuya neighbourhood which has been throwing parties for more than 20 years, and the expat-friendly Geronimo ‘shot bar’ in Roppongi, according to the Japan Times.

Most of the affected venues are believed to be small dance music clubs with live DJs.

Reports the Times:

So we’re back to the dark days of the early 2010s, where venues have to post notices advising customers that “excessive dancing will be prohibited,” and police can march up to anyone swaying to the music and demand to know if they are harbouring more sinister intentions. It’s a silly place to be, and a drab, depressing one too.

Similar laws regulating dancing are in force in Brussels, albeit in the form of a tax: venues can be charged €0.40 per person dancing per night. “At first I thought it was a joke, but it is apparently real,” Nicolas Boochie, of the 170-cap. Bonnefooi venue, said in November 2016. “The city has several times sent people round incognito to count the number of dancers.”

 


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