Tokyo Dance Event Discusses Local Nightlife

The second annual Tokyo Dance Music Event, a three-day series of seminars, workshops and shows in the Shibuya district, touched on Japanese nightlife in the wake of the government's repeal of its notorious "anti-dance ordinance" last year.

Though Japanese cities have always had vibrant clubs, starting about 10 years ago police in the two largest cities of Tokyo and Osaka started enforcing the ordinance, a leftover from the immediate postwar period to combat prostitution, by raiding clubs that allowed dancing after midnight. The ostensible reason was noise complaints from neighbors, but many felt the police were trying to smoke out illegal drug dealers.

In any case, after a concerted effort by club owners and music promoters, the government finally repealed the law last year. Two local nightclub owner-managers and a representative of the government discussed the ramifications of the repeal during the seminar. As it stands, club owners still must obtain permits to allow dancing after midnight, and the clubs must cease operation by 5 a.m.

The main problem, they agreed, was that most Japanese cities have poor zoning, so that clubs are often very close to residential areas. A solution would be to follow the lead of cities like Beijing or Amsterdam, where late-night clubs tend to be situated in abandoned or superannuated factories in commercial districts that close after dark.

The government representative also talked about how nightclubbing fit into Japan's overall economic plan to boost tourism. Entertainment accounts for only 1 percent of tourism revenues in Japan, whereas it accounts for 8 percent in the U.S.

One complaint that visitors to Tokyo always mention is that there aren't enough things to do at night, so relevant ministries are encouraging entertainment-related businesses to provide more events in the evening. Since nightclubs are already operating late at night, they should be encouraged, though also tightly regulated so as not to interfere with "public order." When one club owner mentioned that most world capitals "operate round the clock" while Tokyo tends to shut down around midnight, mainly because public transportation stops, the government representative agreed that he is studying the possibility of 24-hour transportation, but balked at the idea of making services like Uber more prominent.

At present, Uber is tightly restricted in Tokyo, and most Japanese don't seem inclined to use it. Following the discussion was another seminar by three so-called night mayors—Mirik Milan of Amsterdam, Lutz Leichsenring of Berlin, and local hip-hop DJ Zeebra of Tokyo—about the "cultural and economic" value of night life.

As Milan pointed out, in Europe the idea that there can be a whole separate economy generated in the wee hours has taken hold in a big way, and night mayors—essentially community leaders speaking for businesses, artists, and consumers who thrive at night—work with city officials and other business leaders to make sure their constituent needs are met.

By his reckoning there are now eight night mayors in the world. He described his own difficulties in making a difference in Amsterdam, despite its liberal, even libertine reputation, but now he has the ear of the city council and is working on infrastructure projects that will benefit Amsterdam nightlife.

Leichsenring mentioned that the main problems in the beginning for Berlin were working with police and local legislators. It was difficult to coordinate because of the sheer volume and freedom involved—120 clubs and some 500 bars, and no curfew since 1949. Zeebra echoed the previous discussion's focus on zoning by saying that his biggest problem is the lack of space—Tokyo is large but also notoriously cramped. At the same time, Japan is now plagued by a profusion of abandoned properties, and he hopes to be able to work with local leaders to somehow help potential club owners acquire these properties and turn them into nightlife venues.

Milan suggested Zeebra work with city architects, as he did in Amsterdam. The three also talked about developing safe transportation options in their respective cities and doing more to "embrace creativity" so as to move beyond mere dance music to something more eclectic and edifying.

They pledged to seriously address increased drug use at night, which is especially a concern for the Japanese police and public. Looking around the stage and at the audience, Zeebra also promised to "include more women" in his plans to develop Tokyo nightlife.


Photo

Photo: Colossal X / All Is Amazing

It's The Ship - 2017

It’s The Ship Sea Fest Attracts 4,000

It's The Ship, boasted as "Asia's largest festival at sea," concluded its fourth and most successful edition two weeks ago.

The festival attracted 4,000 people from 88 countries to enjoy performances by more than 80 artists, including Krewella, DJ Craze, The Higher Brothers, Yellow Claw and the Chippendales.

The festival also offered a yoga session with Tigerlily, a soccer game featuring bunnies from Playboy Thailand, miniature golf, and the Chippendales' legendary male strip show.

This year's event took place on the new Genting Dream cruise ship, captained by Tyson Beckford, over a four-day period. Most of the tickets buyers were from Australia, the U.S. and Germany, though local markets were heavily represented by the attendants from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan.

In addition to the world-class entertainers mentioned above there were also many Southeast Asian artists on the bill. The ship's course described a round trip from Singapore with a stopover in Phuket, Thailand, where crew members partied at the Kudo Beach club. As an unexpected surprise, one couple even got engaged during the cruise.