Dare To Dance

In the wake of a recent raid on a Tokyo nightclub, a group of some 100 musicians and music lovers have petitioned Japan’s National Police Agency to rescind a decades-old law that prohibits dancing in drinking establishments.

The group includes such notable musicians as Yellow Magic Orchestra keyboardist/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Tokyo police arrested the owner and manager of A Life, a club in the trendy Nishi Azabu district, several weeks ago. The charge was operating a business without the proper permits.

The specific infraction was allowing patrons to dance in a venue where dancing was prohibited. A Life happens to be a DJ club where dancing would seem to be the main attraction.

Hundreds of such clubs operate all over Japan, most of which don’t have special permits for dancing. Police didn’t enforce this particular law until several years ago when a series of scandals involving celebrities using drugs in nightclubs was publicized.

The police used the law as means of cracking down on drug use, mainly in the Osaka/Kyoto region.

The law was enacted in 1948 because in those days dancing in business establishments was seen to be related to prostitution, so it was permitted only in very large venues.

In addition, music clubs couldn’t operate after midnight, though most DJ clubs don’t get started until the wee hours.
Numerous lawyers have said the law is anachronistic, and makes no sense in today’s entertainment culture.

Nevertheless, a number of clubs have posted signs prohibiting dancing and have even ordered employees to patrol the premises to make sure no one is even thinking of shaking a leg, regardless of the music being played.