A 1948 law banning after-hours dancing in Japanese clubs has finally been changed.
Japan’s Adult Entertainment Laws (AELs) were intended to address post-war prostitution, requiring that “dance halls” have unobstructed floor space of at least 66 square meters and close by midnight or 1am.
The law had been largely ignored in recent decades as discos and dance clubs went mainstream. But that changed following a student’s brutal death in an Osaka club four years ago. The resulting crackdown has seen many clubs nationwide close or shutter dance floors.
The dance scene’s downturn coincided with a set of Organized Crime Exclusionary Ordinances (OCEOs) set in October 2011, which cut out the Yakuza from their longstanding club security role, opening clubs up to a variety of less-regulated—and more violent—players. Police used the AELs as a pretext for raiding clubs for resurgent drug, gang and prostitution activities. Every venue offering late-night dance got caught up in the renewed zeal for the old law.
The move to revise the law gained new traction as Tokyo looked to burnish its image as a fun spot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While the Cabinet approved the change on October 24, the vibe will still be somewhat subdued, however: To assuage fears of bad behavior in the dark, dance floor lighting must be brighter than 10 lux—the equivalent to a pre-show movie theater.