Sunday, 4 November 2012

Dancing in the street...a short history of the Rainbow Ninja revolution

Dance Out Loud is the website of the Niji Iro Ninja (Rainbow Ninjas) dance protest group and community. Niji Iro Ninja was started in late August as a response to the dance crackdown that has been sweeping Japan over the last two years and that was making itself strongly felt in clubs in and around Tokyo. Places that had once been pleasant hangouts for late-night dancing, not necessarily large clubs, but venues with a lively atmosphere, great for letting off steam on Friday or Saturday night, such as Arty Farty in Shinjuku's Nichome, were now being raided by police officers ordering people to stop moving and instructing venues to put up signs telling clients that dancing was forbidden. Yes, incomprehensible!

We are a group (including Japanese nationals and foreign Japan residents) who love dancing and who are passionately opposed to the increasingly rigid enforcement of a law that is as ridiculous as it is archaic! If you are interested in contributing to our community and its activities, please feel free to join us by following us here or on Facebook or Twitter. We welcome your ideas and suggestions as well as your participation in our events. Hopefully our activities will increase awareness of this sinister law and spur others to protest it in their own creative ways. We are open to contributions from all, irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, race or creed. Also, you don’t have to be resident in Japan to contribute! (But you do have to be resident in Japan to sign the Let's Dance petition.)

Niji Iro Ninja organises flash mobs in Tokyo aimed at increasing awareness of the late-night dancing ban and creating a community of like-minded friends keen to reverse the law and protect our right to dance through the night! So far flash mob events have been held at Shinjuku station and Shibuya Hachiko square and Sentaa Gai street. In a matter of weeks, the group has gone from a keen core of twenty or so peeps to a veritable international community - the Zombie Prom flashmob on October 20th in Shibuya was a total blast with a motley crew of zombies in spooky maquillage, getting their ghoulish haunches quivering to that towering classic of zombie pop, Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Future possible locations for dance protests and flash mobs are central night spots such as Roppongi and Harajuku, university campuses in and around Tokyo and Yokohama, and possibly places known for their vibrant bar and live music scenes, such as Shimokitazawa, Koenji, Nakano, Kichijoji... Watch this space...

On this site you will find information about the law and its enforcement and news of the activities of our community and sometimes of other groups, like us, who are also involved in protesting it. We will continue to post links to articles covering these topics as well as related sites. You will also find some more general information about dance culture in Japan, which we wish to celebrate and promote.

As a group, we wish to get people together to protest the crack down. We don’t advocate breaking the law as this may cause problems for venues and hassle for those working in them. Discretion is necessary in all actions and we respect the staff in clubs and do not wish to cause them undue stress. However, we do passionately advocate protesting against the enforcement of this crazy law, which should, we believe, be repealed and abandoned entirely! It is depressing, controlling, out-of-date...

The dance crackdown seems to have been instigated by a reactionary posse of shadowy establishment figures, bureaucrats, police chiefs and other bigwigs who are intent on destroying the late night dance scene. Apparently, the governors of Osaka and Tokyo would prefer to promote casinos. Though I am no expert on these matters, don't casinos have a stronger link with the criminal underground than your small or medium-sized dance or live music venue??? Which would you prefer in your city, large unsightly pachinko parlours and casinos with their blinding lights and deadening throng of slot machines, or small and medium-sized venues with a program of live music, club nights, dance classes and art exhibitions? A carbuncle packed with gambling drones or a creative hub promoting local talent and exciting youth cultures?

Puzzlingly, this crackdown is seemingly at odds with the policies of the Education Ministry, which make dance a compulsory part of the Physical Education curriculum in Junior High Schools.  So, it is okay for JHS studes to be dancing under the supervision of their teacher, but young adults are not to be trusted to dance after dark, to create their own vital forms of culture beyond the watchful eyes of their seniors. What coercive, paternalistic nonsense is this?

And for those that claim that Japanese night spots are noisy or unruly, that certainly hasn't been my experience of clubbing in Japan. On the contrary, many clubs are tucked away in basements, well sound-proofed, with staff that are considerate to those that reside in the vicinity. Japanese clubbers do not seem to me to be a particularly rowdy bunch. The atmosphere in clubs tends to be friendly, unthreatening, not overly drunken, certainly not unruly. The Japanese night is almost miraculously benign and attitude-free, especially to foreign observers! Of course clubs need to be safe, of course club owners need to take responsibility for noise, to keep drugs and under-age partiers off their premises. Of course. As far as I can see, Japanese club owners have been doing a very good job on all of these counts, so why the sudden change of policy?

Our group believes that late night dance culture is an essential element of a healthy and vibrant culture, a joyful expression of our love of music and a celebration of existence! It is a way of meeting and interacting with others, a beautiful form of exercise and a wonderful way to relieve stress in our hectic contemporary world! Dancing in clubs can provide access to fascinating people, music, art, performance, film, fashion, body art, and a wonderful plethora of exciting new cultures and trends from all over the world!

Furthermore, it is good for business in Japan! At a time when Japan is in the economic doldrums, shouldn't the government be promoting lively and lucrative forms of youth culture and expression, not criminalising them?

Why, suddenly, at the start of the 21st century, should the Japanese government choose to deprive Japan of the pleasures associated with the fascinating and vibrant culture that has developed around dancing in nightclubs, when the opposite is true of most world metropolises?

It has been two years since the dance crackdown started in earnest, so it is high time to stand up for free expression. We need to fight for our right to party through the night; to fight together peacefully, respectfully, with the funk of 40,000 years... If we don’t fight for late-night dancing, then other freedoms and cultures may be eroded by a nonsensical agenda which aims at straightjacketing youth expression.

Please join us now!

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