No Dancing: Japan’s Anti-Dance Law is Strange, But True

It might seem like an old puritanical Calvinist idea, but Japan still holds to a strict law on dancing in public. No need to rub your eyes, you’re really reading that correctly. NO DANCING.

Photo via Fukouka Now.

Photo via Fukouka Now.

This is not to say that people aren’t dancing. They are. But chances are, they’re breaking the law.

If you head out to the clubs and bars in Japan, keep an eye out for the sign. You’ll literally find signs in strict, bold lettering that proclaim NO DANCING. And it’s the subject of a lot of debate in Japan.

The law has been on the books for a while. In 1948 the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law banned dancing in small clubs. And then rather appropriately, in 1984, the government banned dancing after midnight altogether.

The idea, originally, was to crack down on prostitution. Clubs that offered dancing and drinking were often interchangeable as brothels and the government needed another way to combat the sex trade. But the series of laws that have been enacted have become incredibly complex, making it difficult for operators of night clubs to get the proper licenses required. Especially the size minimum, as property in the world’s largest metropolis is understandably high. And so most places have to prohibit dancing because they don’t have a license to dance. From the Japan Times:

A recent example is the closure of Fukuoka venue Kieth Flack and the arrest of its owner for the alleged crime of nonlicensed dancing by its customers.

It’s not the patrons who suffer from this law–at least not directly. Owners are having their establishments shut down and in some cases, are arrested, all the for the crime of moving your body to music without the proper license.

A 1984 law indeed.

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