Japanese students may finally dance the night away

Japanese government lifts ban prohibiting dancing after midnight.

Imagine heading to Hive one evening, only to find out that you cannot dance past midnight. A ridiculous thought, and one that would be near impossible to control. However, in Japan this was a regular occurrence, until now.

Since 1948, a law known as ‘Fueiho’ governing ‘adult entertainment’ has existed in Japan. This was enforced in an attempt to stamp out the prostitution that was linked to dance halls. For a long time, this was not strictly enforced, but it has been imposed since 2011, particularly in Osaka, Fukuoka and Tokyo. This law essentially meant that club dancing in Japan was illegal unless in a licensed club, and even then all dancing had to stop by midnight or 1am. The reason for this 2011 crackdown was largely due to an incident in Osaka in which a student was killed in a brawl, leading to heightened concern for the safety of young people grew.

Many foreign visitors to Japan would be confused by such a concept, as it is almost unfathomable that it would be possible to ban dancing. For the most part enforcing this consisted of ‘no dancing’ signs, and a scolding from staff members if the rule was not followed. However, if this rule was ignored in a more major way, on occasion there were police raids in which dancers were kicked out from clubs. Often the police would also use this as a pretext to investigate the club for illegal drugs or suspected gang involvement.

Japan’s cabinet decided on October 24 to approve plans to overturn this Fueiho law. However, this includes some strict regulations that clubs have to abide by. Previously, dancing was forbidden in nightclubs with dance floors smaller than 66 square meters, or in nightclubs that operate after 1am or even midnight in some areas. With the overturn, clubs will need a permit to allow all-night dancing, and according to Reuters: “The lighting must now be brighter than 10 lux, or about as much as in a movie theatre before a show starts, to discourage crimes and bad behaviour.”

The drinking culture in Japan is somewhat different to that of Britain. As a student here, ‘pre-drinking’ before going to a club, or going on a pub-crawl is common, whereas in Japan going to an ‘izakaya’ – a Japanese-style pub – is often the preferred night out. At an izakaya, you would usually eat, drink and chat as much as you want in small groups. The atmosphere can be similar to that of a British pub, but often there is more private room for small groups to meet up and get close to one another, rather than meeting new people as one might do in a club.

Having studied in Edinburgh for a year as a Japanese exchange student, Ayu Arai explains: “Before I went to the UK I had only been to the club a few times, but after I came back I went to the club twice within 3 months. That’s quite a low number for me when I look back at times in the UK, but that’s because Japanese night clubs are boring actually.”

Arai continued “I went to Ageha [which is open past midnight], which is said to be the most fun club in Japan, but you know, Japanese people are shy, so clubbing doesn’t involve meeting any new people. I prefer to enjoy the music and dance in a club, but in Japan clubbing is just a place where guys try to hook up with girls, which is called Nanpa in Japanese. I haven’t tried clubbing much yet, so I can’t say my impression is 100% accurate but, it should be better to dance now [after the overturn of Fueiho]”.

As Japan plans to overturn these laws so outlandish to us, it makes way for the 2020 Japan Olympics to bring a tourism boost to the country, and to highlight Japan’s thriving youth culture. At last, efforts of campaigners such as members of ‘let’s dance’, can celebrate, and what better way to do it than to dance the night away at one of Tokyo’s lively clubs.

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The Student Newspaper 2016