The signs are an eyesore. Everything about them sickens me. All over the walls, these laminated bastards bounce disco ball light of their pristine plastic. I feel an overwhelming urge to tear one down, find some scissors, and then cut it up into little pieces.
All around me, people stand with drinks in their hands. They walk around and talk loudly over the booming bass in the background.If not for the DJ and the lighting, it could’ve been mistaken for a mixer at some local bar instead of a club. I’m sitting close to my friend, waiting for her to finish her drink before we decide what we want to do.
My friend shouts over the music, “Why? Why can’t we dance?”
I sigh and take a swig of my beer. “Because it’s the law!” I shout at her.
An old, outdated law made in 1948. The Entertainment Business Control Law was an understood idiocy between police and clubs until about a year ago It started small. A few clubs here and there, usually attacking places with big gaikokujin clientele. Nobody really complained, because who cares about the foreigners?
I vaguely recalled a few new stories hitting the twitter-verse about the nightlife in Kyushu coming to a near death with the clubs shutting down there. Osaka and Nagoya started pitching up a fuss a few months ago when a few clubs were shut down. I remember asking my friends in Tokyo if it could ever happen here.
“No, of course not!” I remember a Japanese friend patting me on my hand as we ate at T.G.I Fridays. “Tokyo would never let that happen.”
But here I stand, in a club unable to do much but bob my head to the music like a parrot. I felt like an idiot, and I was pretty sure I looked like one. Luckily, I wasn’t alone.
A Japanese woman off to the side starts swinging her hips. The bartender shouts, “Dame!” and crosses his fingers. She stops, putting her head down as if ashamed.
“I want a revolution!” I shout to my friend. “Tell the government to screw itself! Rip all these stupid signs off the wall and DANCE!”
“Good!” She raises her beer. “Wait for me to finish my beer! Tell me more about why!”
I turn to stare at her. She’s smoking a cigarette, letting the cloud hit the air. It floated up and away, joining the other clouds from other smokers. I glare at it. The damned smoke could dance and I couldn’t.
“They won’t say why. They’re just saying we can’t.” They being the police.
Everybody has ideas, opinions, and conspiracy theories about it. Some just say the government wanted more money so it wanted the clubs to buy those permits for dancing as a source of revenue. Other people, like the clubbers of Nichome, figure the police wanted all foreigners and LGBTQ communities to suffer for being different. My favorite was something about the Yakuza and the police having a passive aggressive war each other and were using the clubs to make it happen. I don’t believe a word of it, but it makes my giggle.
Regardless, nowadays I hear about a club getting busted every weekend. The police are serious, and people are afraid to move.
It’s oppression in it’s finest form, really.
“Let’s go.” She shouts. “Let’s go to Roppongi.”
Roppongi, the rebel of Tokyo’s nightlife, continued to have dancing at certain clubs that could afford to pay off the police or just didn’t give damn about the police.
“Alright!” I shout back.
She gets up before me. I see another small sign on the table. Quickly, I rip it off and tuck it into my pocket. We head to the stairs, the music fading away behind us. The bouncer nodded. “Arigatou gozaimashita! Thank you!”
I nodded. “Arigatou!”
When we got to the bottom of the stairs, I flicked the little sign into the street. It’s a small act, and nobody will notice or care.
But it made me feel better.