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Dance and the Entertainment Business Law:
Why doesn't the law allow people to dance?

Kenjiro Iwamura
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Law, Waseda University

Minority dance movements face a quandary due to the issue of "business activities that allow people to dance"

My area of specialty is the history of Cuba, and the reason I first became interested in this subject was because I began dancing salsa as a student. Salsa is a music and dance form which is performed in a pair, and which became popular in America after it was imported by immigrants coming across the Caribbean from Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.

Recently, in Japan, due to legislation called the "Entertainment Business Law," "business activities that allow people to dance" newly require permits to operate, and the current author has witnessed the impact of this at the grassroots level from the perspective of someone who dances. Moreover, the scope of "business activities that allow people to dance" in the Entertainment Business Law includes the operation of dance schools, and people who do not hold a teaching qualification issued by an official accreditation body and operate a dance school without permission under the Entertainment Business Law, may face charges if discovered.

The official accreditation bodies are appointed by the National Public Safety Commission, but at present, only two exist, both of them for "ballroom dancing." More concretely, if a customer, that is, someone who has paid an entrance fee to enter a location, dances there, or if a person who does not have a teaching qualification teaches dancing in exchange for a fee, this constitutes an "unauthorized business activity," if the location where this occurs has not been granted a permit to conduct business activities under the Entertainment Business Law, and the parties involved may face charges if discovered. The permit to conduct business activities under the Entertainment Business Law contains very precise requirements in terms of the space available, interior decoration, business hours, and business location, the establishment of an official accreditation body also presents extremely harsh hurdles in terms of requirements that the organization has corporate status and is a nationwide organization, etc. If people participating in forms of dance which are new to Japan, and thus have fewer devotees, want to be able to teach and be taught freely without being subject to the restrictions (by being excluded from restrictions under the Entertainment Business Law), they would need to either establish an official accreditation body, which means that they would have to increase their number of members and teachers by conducting fee-charging lessons while obtaining a permit to conduct business activities under the Entertainment Business Law, or else they would have to conduct lessons free of charge and increase numbers that way. Then, even if they did manage to establish an official accreditation body, in a case when they were not conducting a lesson but just dancing for the sake of dancing, in a business activity which involved gathering people together in exchange for remuneration, this would again require a permit to conduct business activities under the Entertainment Business Law. It is fair to say that in Japan today, the possibility of new forms of dance being able to increase their numbers of devotees is being heavily obstructed by the law and by having to obey the law. Salsa dancing too, faces this harsh situation.

What exactly are the "customs" referred to in the Entertainment Business Law?

The official name of the Entertainment Business Law is the "Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement and Entertainment Businesses" (known as "Fueiho" in Japanese, a contraction of "Fuzoku Eigyo to no Kisei Oyobi Gyomu no Tekiseika-to ni Kansuru Horitsu"). Finding a precise English translation for the Japanese words "Fuzoku (popular customs)" and "Fuzoku Eigyo (entertainment business activities)," included in the title of this law, is no easy task. "Fuzoku" is often translated as traditional "manners" or "popular customs" used in daily life, but this does not fit with the content of the actual business activities in the law. Thus, in the context of this law, based on the premise of operation as a business, it needs to be translated as "entertainment" or "amusement." However, some inherent element of "manners" or "customs" does remain somewhere in the meaning of this word. Historically, at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868 to 1912) in Japan, an organization called the "Fuzoku Keisatsu" or "Public Morals Police" targeted popular customs or public morals in society in general, regardless of whether or not they related to business activities. Similarly, the "Law regulating Amusement and Entertainment Businesses" (the forerunner of the current law, before its name change in 1959) is explained as having been enacted in the postwar period in order to correct the "general customs and spirit of the times," which had degenerated and become decadent in the confusion of the aftermath of the war and the abrupt changes in economic life, etc., to "retain and preserve good customs," (from Shin Kageyama Entertainment Business Law Annotated [Chukai Fueiho] . The explanation below on the background to and legislative intent of the Entertainment Business Law is also based on this book). The current Entertainment Business Law, which claims the promotion of "proper entertainment business activities" as its purpose, in this way can be seen to be consistent with the legislative intent of the original law: in seeking to "retain and preserve good customs." In other words, it has set as its target "customs," to include those that do not have business activities as their premise, and entrusted the law with the role of "retaining and preserving" these as "good." Since the ostensible purpose is the promotion of "proper entertainment business activities," it might not be immediately clear to people unfamiliar with the law that, in effect, activities that do not constitute "business activities" as such are also included in the firing range, but it may become clearer if one thinks of these activities that do not constitute "business activities" as being activities that therefore do not constitute "proper entertainment business activities," and thus as "decadent" or "bad customs." If this is the case, why are these "bad customs" now being dubbed as so "bad"?

This is said to be because they "disturb the sound and healthy way of life of the people of the nation as a whole, and may eventually become a breeding ground for crimes related to prostitution or gambling, or other such crimes of bad customs or public morals." Thus, the "breeding ground" is being targeted, not the prostitution or gambling themselves. Should one simply attribute this to the differences between administrative law and criminal law? Moreover, the actual business activities that are being targeted by the Entertainment Business Law relate to "drinking," "sex," and "trying one's luck," that is, to "business activities for pleasure and hedonism predicated on innate human desires," based upon the idea that if these are "improperly or unsoundly operated.human rationality can become paralyzed and people can become unable to restrain themselves from indulging in such pleasure and hedonism." A region is set premised on people's "innate human desires" and ranging through to bestiality as a corollary, and usually one would expect antisocial behavior to be deterred by the prospect of being labeled a "crime" in its ultimate form, but in the case of the Entertainment Business Law, the lesser part is subject to guidance and controls to maintain its as "sound and healthy."

An "atmosphere of hedonism between men and women"

The reason given for "Business activities which allow people to dance" being subject to regulations is in effect argued along the same lines. It says that in businesses where "men and women are coupled as a pair and dance together.depending upon how the business is operated, an atmosphere of hedonism between men and women may become excessive and disturb the purposes of the Entertainment Business Law. The reason why "an excessive atmosphere of hedonism" might "disturb the purposes of the Entertainment Business Law" is given in even more concrete terms. It says that there is a "historical precedent" of "dance halls being operated in a similar manner to a cabaret, and leading to the multiple occurrences of acts of prostitution." In other words, "prostitution" is a natural progression from this sort of "excessive atmosphere," so the "atmosphere" itself, as the stage which precedes or is a prelude to a crime, is being clamped down upon. The issue remains, however, of what to make of this "historical precedent," expressed in the past tense, in the current context of the modern world? Does the existence of a "historical precedent" constitute sufficient grounds to restrict this sort of "atmosphere" today?

From "customs" to, say, "entertainment"

The reason I have engaged in the above discussion on the legislative intent of the Entertainment Business Law, is from a sense of the danger that, under certain circumstances, this law is trying to usurp the operation of the rationality of the individual members who constitute society with the operation of legislation, and risks spoiling peoples' individual autonomous actions for "sound and healthy" purposes with the interference of "guidance." The current Entertainment Business Law claims that "entertainment business activities" should "act to improve the welfare of the people of the nation across a broad spectrum, by being socially effective establishments for relaxation and entertainment, which exclude the potential social dangers of such establishments and are sound and healthy." Is it impossible for the people and government of Japan to find an opportunity to think through the issue of the position of "entertainment" in society and in our social systems, for themselves, from head on, in order to make it able to "improve the welfare of the people"?

Kenjiro Iwamura
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Law, Waseda University

[Profile]
Graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University. Completed a Master's program majoring in Latin American studies in the Graduate School of Area Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and withdrew from the Doctoral program in the Graduate School of Area Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, after completing the required course work. His area of specialization is the History of Cuba.
His publications include Know All about Cuba in 52 Chapters [Kyuba o Shiru tame no 52 sho] , (coauthored; published by Akashi Shoten) and World Geography Lesson Vol. 14: Latin America [Sekai Chiri Koza Dai 14 Kan: Raten Amerika] (Asakura Shoten).