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June 23, 2017

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Japan's lawmakers to amend 'Footloose' laws

TOKYO -- Famous for its neon lights and wild nightlife, Tokyo's status as one of the world's clubbing capitals looks set to survive a potentially ruinous police crackdown on — of all things — dancing.

In the topsy-turvy world of Japan's clubland, party-goers currently risk being arrested for failing to obey "No Dancing" signs at venues.

An antiquated law prohibiting dancing after midnight, zealously enforced by police in recent years, has decimated much of Japan's dance scene, with Tokyo taking some big hits.

However, with one eye on the 2020 Olympics, which was last year awarded to Tokyo, Japanese lawmakers have decided the time has come to change the party-pooping rule.

A government committee last month agreed the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business, introduced in 1948 to curb prostitution at dance halls, needed overhauling.

"This law is unnecessary," committee secretary general Tsukasa Akimoto, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told AFP. "Why should dancing be illegal? Obviously the Olympics are a factor. It's realistic to expect the law to be changed by the end of this year."

Tokyo prides itself as having one of the world's most vibrant clubbing cultures yet for years the city's famed nightspots have technically been operating illegally.

After decades of turning a blind eye to the clubs, a police crackdown began following the 2010 death of a 22-year-old student after a fight in an Osaka club.

Hit by a wave of raids, most of the city's venues were shut down for licensing violations, pulling the plug on Osaka's thriving dance scene.

Other cities quickly felt the pinch.

Big-name DJ Takkyu Ishino had a set broken up in Fukuoka when police crashed in and shut down the party in 2012. Ishino's angry response on social media, "Dance is not a crime," has been retweeted over 3,700 times.

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