Finally Dancing?

Japan’s ruling party is finally considering lifting a ban on dance clubs and other music venues from operating after midnight.

The archaic prohibition, enacted right after the end of World War II, was originally supposed to curb prostitution but in recent years police have used it to crack down on venues that are either too noisy or which they suspect foster drug use.

Some clubs in cities like Osaka and Tokyo, which employ DJs and are open all night, say they will go out of business if the ban isn’t lifted. Many of these clubs don’t have licenses because having licenses attracts attention. Certain politicians say they will introduce legislation to the National Assembly this fall to allow establishments to stay open until 6 a.m. by replacing the current ban with a requirement that clubs obtain a “license for extended operations” from local safety commissions.

In April a district court in western Japan acquitted a former Osaka nightclub owner of “debasing morals” by allowing patrons to dance on his premises. Usually, operators caught opt to pay a fine, but this owner decided to accept an indictment and fight the charges in court. Prosecutors have appealed the district court decision and the case is now pending in high court, but the point was made.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party discussed revising the law in June but did not go further after some members argued a revision would lead to more public drunkenness and noise. The National Police Agency remains opposed to any revision, but the new proposed legislation appears to be gaining support.