This weekend, for the first time since 1948, Japanese club-goers can dance after midnight.
Think about that for a second. A lot of people don’t even start getting ready to hit a dance club until after midnight. Up until now, though, it was illegal for any such club in Japan to stay open beyond then. Seriously.
This was known as the fuzoku eigyo torishimari ho–the Entertainment Business Control Law. Apparently post-WW2 dance clubs were dens of vice and prostitution. Authorities sought to stamp out this scourge by forcing Adult Entertainment Venues (that was their official government designation) to close between midnight and sunrise.
Although the law was on the books, it was rarely enforced until some noise complaints in 2010 prompted the cops initiate a crackdown. There were a number of arrests, including the owners of some of the more popular clubs.
Sanity finally started coming to the situation a year ago when lawmakers realized that not ever dance club was a brothel. Now a club can apply for a license to operate as a Nighttime Entertainment Restaurant Operator (again, another official term), meaning that a club can offer entertainment (including a DJ and music), alcohol and food until 5am with one condition: that the place be lit to a brightness greater than 10 lux. That’s about as bright as a movie theatre before the lights go down. Sure, you can have it darker, but that means you can’t serve alcohol after midnight.
Hey, it’s something, right?