Tokyo: the city that wants clubbers to sleep after midnight

Honorable Members of the National Diet,

I urge you to listen to young people’s voices and revise the Entertainment and Amusement Trade Control Law to allow late-night dancing in Tokyo and other cities throughout Japan.

Cosmopolitan Tokyo conjures up images of world-class restaurants, busy streets and the latest trends in fashion. But one thing jars with this image of a busy metropolis: that clubbing late at night is a crime.

The entertainment trade control law prohibits dancing after midnight in clubs smaller than 60 sq. meters. Recently, police have been cracking down on clubs in Tokyo because neighbors have complained about noise and antisocial behavior.

However, cracking down on clubbing after midnight is an unreasonable and Draconian action. It is time to revise this outdated law and allow dance clubs to operate all night.

Closing down clubs will not control noise and antisocial behavior. Rather, it leads to a redistribution of problems.

The entertainment law was originally promulgated in 1948 by GHQ during the U.S. Occupation to prevent crimes and antisocial behavior. The 60 sq. meter requirement made sense when dancing required a big band or orchestra, but nowadays a laptop and speakers are enough to energize clubbers.

Moreover, there is a double standard in the law. Many all-night entertainment establishments, including pachinko halls, izakaya, karaoke businesses and hostess bars, are more or less tolerated although these businesses also generate a certain amount of socially undesirable behavior.

Hundreds of thousands of young people in Japan’s big cities want to go out dancing in nightclubs. Recently, more than 155,000 people signed the “Let’s Dance” petition.

Let’s Dance was created by a group of clubbers, DJs and lawyers to get the legal prohibitions relating to dancing removed. They propose that clubbing should be regulated rather than suppressed. Ensuring the enforcement of safety rules in nightclubs is in the interests of both clubbers and those living near clubs.

A revision of the law could limit social problems without prohibiting dancing, whereas cracking down on nightclubs pushes frustrated clubbers out onto the streets, where they sometimes engage in undesirable behavior.

Parts of the national government have recognized the value of dancing, including rock and hip-hop. Recently, the Ministry of Education made dancing a compulsory subject in middle schools because dancing is, to quote, “a pleasure shared by young and old, men and women in the West and in the East by promoting rich communication and exchange.” The current law is clearly inconsistent with government policy and public opinion.

Addressing problems with the entertainment law might not be considered a priority in times of pressing economic problems, but advocates point out that changing the law would have positive economic effects — allowing dance clubs to flourish will provide jobs and stimulate local economies, as well as attracting international tourism. Enforcement of the existing law prevents clubs from meeting current demand.

A new law could allow nightclubs to operate if they fulfill such requirements as checking customers’ IDs, having a sufficient number of security staff and minimizing outside noise. This way, the law could address complaints from neighbors while allowing young people to have the opportunity to dance in a safe environment.

It is time to revise the outdated restrictions on dancing in the Entertainment and Amusement Trade Control Law. The law should be consistent with the government’s official promotion of dancing and the public’s view that dancing is not a crime, but rather, beneficial for health and society.

By revising the law, Tokyo can move from being the city that wants clubbers to sleep after midnight to a city that flourishes through the promotion of world-class clubbing.


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