Noilly Prattle: Of Control Freaks and Fundamentalists

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Of Control Freaks and Fundamentalists

Ryo Isobe - Japan: the Country
Where You Must Not Dance

Drinking, dancing and doing it won't do!

There is a book recently published in Japanese with the delicious title: 踊ってはいけない国日本 "Odotte wa Ikenai Kuni, Nihon (Japan: the Country Where You Must Not Dance)" by Ryo Isobe, a freelance writer specializing in club music.

America has its constipated fundies whilst Japan has its anal retentive control freaks. Unfortunately, these control obsessed types aren't satisfied with controlling themselves; oh no, they want to control everybody else as well.

I'll leave the American scene alone, you can read and hear all about it in the Republican presidential campaign platforms and ads. Were they to have it their way we'd all be wearing hair shirts, on our knees or squirming on butt hard pews singing Hallelujahs twenty-four/seven with one-at-time toilet breaks every four hours and be sure to “keep the door ajar”.

But, back to the country where “you must not dance”.

In this country where you must not dance there is a world, once called “the floating world”, now called the “mizu shobai” 水商売「みずしょうばい」(literally “water business”) referring to the entertainment industry. Any city in Japan of respectable size has its mizu shobai district and everybody knows where it is. It's composed of often tiny broom-closet size watering holes, restaurants, hostess clubs, massage parlors, hotels, etc. Ubiquitous among these “shops” are little places called “snacks” usually run a middle-aged motherly figure called, appropriately, “mama-san”, with the mind of a cash register.

Although it's apparently not OK to be young and healthy and energetic enough to dance, it's OK to be neurotic and depressed and cry in your "mizuwari" (whiskey and water) on mama-san's bosom (figuratively) while drowning your sorrows in your “bar keep” (usually a bottle of Suntory Whiskey with a little label with your name on it). You're one of mama-san's regular visitors to her confessional or psychoanalyst's couch, however you want to look at it.

Maybe it's because it's quieter. After all, Japan is a country, or so it thinks of itself, as culturally and emotionally “refined” (an outsider might think repressed), where such outre behavior as dirty dancing is thoroughly unrefined and vulgar, immoral, corrupting of the youth and disturbing the neighbors with loud noises until the wee hours. You have to wonder what the “neighbors” are doing living in the entertainment district in the first place. The kind of neighbors living in the district are usually denizens of the district who, far from complaining about the noise, are the ones busy making a living from it.

At any rate, that's the excuse the authorities used to explain their reasons for the clampdown on dancing in a large number of clubs when interviewed by the author of this book.

I wish I could read Japanese. The book sounds like a lot fun to read.


Anonymous said...

yes, it really does….thank you for sharing the Japanese culture with us! -R

Anonymous said...

The entertainment scene in Japan sounds a lot like the 1984 movie, "Footloose" - Michelle

Noilly Prattle said...

I didn't see that movie, but googled it and see what you mean. Although in Japan club dancing doesn't have a religious angle. It's more about control and disturbing the peace and corrupting people too young to drink legally, etc., etc, etc....