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Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2006

THE ZEIT GIST

Tokyo clubs feel heat in dancing crusade


Staff writer

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Hiroshima club owners are not alone in Japan in receiving the unwanted attention of local authorities.

Several leading clubs in the capital have been raided in recent months, with others forced to shut down or declare bankruptcy.

As well as upsetting Tokyo's dance community, with events featuring world-famous DJs coming to an abrupt end halfway through the night, the actions of the police, say club owners, are tarnishing the city's reputation among event organizers internationally.

The Public Morals Law states that it is illegal to drink and dance between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. That law is now being utilized in the capital to close down music events where it seems the only crime being committed is dancing.

The nights are usually brought to an end after the last trains have stopped and before the first trains in the morning posing more of a public order and safety headache than the club nights themselves.

"I was watching a British DJ in a club in June when the main lights flashed on and off," said one witness.

"Two minutes later the music stopped and everyone was forced off the dance floor and into the second room of the club. Nobody knew what was happening, there was quite a bit of panic.

"Most people asked for a refund once it became clear the dance floor wasn't likely to open any time soon.

"It must have been annoying for the DJ, having traveled all the way from Britain for nothing, and all the people leaving the club at the same time in the middle of the night with nowhere to go must have bothered local residents."

The management of one of Tokyo's biggest clubs, speaking anonymously due to fear of further harassment from the police, said: "Our nights are often closed down, but there's nothing we can do.

"Nearly all the clubs in Tokyo have spoken to lawyers in the hope of getting the law changed, but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of options.

"If we are forced to close for a month, we are in big trouble. If we are forced to close for three months, we'll go bankrupt."

Tokyo police declined to comment on the raids.



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