Tokyo Reporter has posted about another incident in the ongoing “No dancing” saga that is affecting Japan’s nightlife.

GP Bar in Roppongi was raided and the manager and DJ arrested for the heinous crime of allowing patrons to boogie.

This is not the first time that police have raided clubs in the Gas Panic chain and arrested staff for violating the 1948 law that prevents bars from operating as dance clubs after midnight. The antiquated law was an anti-prostitution statute and has been superseded by the fact that most prostitution in Japan involves venues where the last thing people want to do is dance, and of course, now we have proper dance clubs. The GIs are no longer in town and the sudden drive to tackle clubs, especially in Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Osaka, is literally killing off the scene. Those clubs that are re-opening are often being careful and shutting their doors at 1am. Even big name dance clubs are avoiding using words like “DJ” on their websites and it’s not uncommon to find signs posted at establishments warning people not to dance. (For more on the background to the loaw and its effects on the club scene, Time Out Tokyo published this excellent article last year.)

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The GP chain of bars and clubs in Roppongi (and one in Shibuya) are notorious for being rather sleazy dives, frequented by foreign expats looking to pick up. However, promiscuity and unsavory men are nothing new, and the police raids on Vanity and the GP chain are ridiculous. There is no justification for it except that some middle-aged police chief is being a stickler for outdated laws. There is plenty of trouble in areas like Roppongi, yet it would be a real stretch to suggest that a few drunk people in their twenties dancing badly are to blame.

Why are they doing it? This is our theory: It gives the police something to do and exert their manpower. Flashing muscle is what the police in Japan does to show how much authority they have. Although the system of koban is often praised as a way of providing communities and neighborhoods with a “listening post” for residents to drop in with problems or questions, in fact these police boxes are instruments for the police to keep an eye on the area. The police go to great lengths to establish community links (such as paying daily house visits) since a lot of crime gets reported to police by civilians. In other words, they set up an unofficial network of spies.

For a nation with very low crime statistics, the number of police greatly outweigh the necessity. Likewise, spot raids on dance clubs are not actually effective since the number of clubs and criminal dancers are too many. But raids get headlines and this instills a culture of fear.

People are fighting back, though, including flash dance mobs in protest and petition campaigns. However, it must be only a matter of time before the police raid a major Shibuya club, or perhaps the protection money to the Yakuza has some use after all.

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  • Meamo January 19, 2019