After a four-year ban that seemed straight out of an 80s teen matinee, Japanese club goers are finally legally allowed to get footloose and fancy free. On Wednesday Bloomberg reported that parliament has amended fueiho, a 67-year-old anti-prostitution law that also encompassed nightclub dancing.
The new freedoms still come with some strict stipulations: special licenses will be needed for clubs that not only provide dance floors but also serve alcohol, and dance venues must keep light levels above 10 lux. That last provision may seem strange, but as a Vice article published last fall (when news that the changes would eventually be made first broke) explains, 10 lux is equivalent to the brightness of 10 candles three feet away, or the lighting of a movie theatre before the show starts. The author added: “This new rule will supposedly discourage crimes and sketchy behavior,” because apparently there will be decreased visibility of lewd acts in a brighter room (Bloomberg notes that any club failing to provide that level of brightness will be “designated as part of the sex trade”).
Onlookers may be less perplexed with the lux rule than the actual outlawing of dancing, especially because the dancing ban portion of the decades old anti-prostitution law only began to be enforced four years ago. Several outlets, including Time Out Japan clarified that point, saying the recent crackdown was part of a backlash to a slew of 2010 nightlife scandals which peaked with the death of a student at an Osaka nightclub. The invigorated enforcement seemed to have little effect though—the Time Out article noted that a 31-year-old restauranteur was beaten to death at a Tokyo club by masked assailants wielding steel pipes in 2012, a mere two years after the governments renewed fueiho measures.
Several news outlets note that the relaxing of the law likely coincides with the government’s tourist push ahead of the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. But most clubbers couldn’t care less about the reasoning behind the loosening of restrictions, so long as they can finally cut a rug in peace. Kumiko Omura, a longtime devotee of the Tokyo club scene, told Bloomberg the law was in fact downright hypocritical, explaining: “Dancing at clubs has long been associated with strip clubs, but it is nothing of the sort. It was a very contradictory law, given that dance is a compulsory subject at schools.”