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1948 law on entertainment biz too strict on dance clubs: lawmakers

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Lawmakers across party lines pledged Monday to revise a law they consider obsolete that imposes strict operational and licensing rules on dance clubs.

” ‘Abenomics’ encourages exporting Japan’s traditional culture, but we should also capitalize on new ‘J-culture’ to lure foreigners and spur the economy,” Upper House member Kenji Kosaka of the Liberal Democratic Party said at the group’s inaugural meeting, referring to the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “That’s why we should rethink how to regulate where such new Japanese culture emerges.”

The group, launched Monday with more than 60 lawmakers and Kosaka as the leader, is targeting the 1948 law known as “fueiho,” or Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law, whose control extends from businesses including dance clubs and dance schools to brothels and strip clubs.

The lawmakers received more than 150,000 signatures collected by the group Let’s Dance, led by celebrities including Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has been campaigning to get dance clubs excluded from the law. In return, Kosaka vowed hearings to see where the law can be amended.

The movement to target the law follows the forced closure of scores of dance clubs over the past few years, starting with the massive 2010 raid on America Mura, a popular commercial district in Osaka where several dance and night club owners were arrested for operating without proper licenses.

Even though last year the government implemented a dance curriculum at junior high schools, dance clubs face strict rules under the 1948 law, which was created at a time when such venues were perceived as potential threats to public morals and hotbeds of prostitution.

To get a license as a venue that can charge a fee for dancing, an establishment must have at least 66 sq. meters of unobstructed floor space. The law also requires licensed clubs to close by midnight or 1 a.m. at the latest, when business is briskest.