‘Let’s go dancing, I wanna go dancing with you all night dancing, lets go dancing’.
In a somewhat ironic twist, this very vocal loop was heard thumping through Air Tokyo’s Function-One system only a month ago. Yet last week, Air Tokyo announced that the club would be closing down following one final party on New Years Eve. A true exponent of the Tokyo underground electronic music scene, Air has established itself as one of the worlds most respected authorities on the deeper sounds of house and techno since first opening its doors in 2001. This news left a hole in my heart of myself and undoubtedly anybody else who has had the privilege of partying in that little gem tucked away 4 floors under the streets of Daikanyama.
The close of such a venue highlights the greater issue at hand, the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation or ‘Fueiho’ Law. Established in 1948 after World War II, the Fueiho Laws dictate that dance is forbidden in nightclubs with dance floors smaller than 66 square metres or venues that after 1am. Largely unenforced for 5 decades, this archaic law had started to be enforced by Police in Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka at the turn of the decade. As a result, many venues were forced to close or operate in a grey area from a legal perspective.
With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics, there has been a massive push from Japanese citizens and reform organisations to amend the Fueiho laws in an effort to ‘globalise’ the city. On the 24th of October following pressure from the aforementioned parties, the Prime Minister’s cabinet agreed to lift the Fueiho law, signalling an end to sixty six years of Japan’s war on dancing. Although the Japanese parliament is still yet to ratify the decision, opposition to the law changes is not anticipated.
With these changes, a new category of clubs are established which can operate with late night dancing as long as they adhere to specific lighting standards. One of these new standards requires the lighting in these clubs to be brighter than 10 Lux, roughly the level of lighting in a cinema prior to the film beginning. Whilst these lighting restrictions are not ideal, any easing of these laws is a step in the right direction.
A huge motivation for starting this Lost in Nippon blog is to showcase and explore authentic underground experiences to be found in Japan. Air was a staple of the underground scene in Tokyo and will be forever immortalised by Lost in Translation and the memories held by all of those who shared moments of joy under that giant disco ball.