Select Page

Canterbury’s newest nightclub Tokyo Tea Rooms Accused of Cultural Appropriation

William Bowkett

Bill is the Website News Editor for InQuire. He’s currently doing a BA in politics, and therein lies his interest. If you’re looking to break regular news online, both locally and nationally, drop him an email at

A newly opened cocktail bar in Canterbury has been called culturally appropriating towards Japanese people.

Tokyo Tea Rooms – A Japanese themed cocktail bar – was attacked online by resident groups and students, who claimed the venue to be encouraging problematic ‘cultural appropriation’, racism and orientalism.

Members of the public reacted angrily after images emerged online from the club’s Facebook page showing two members of staff dressed in Asian-inspired outfits on its official launch night last Saturday.

The two were seen wearing formal kimonos, the traditional dress of Japan and Shimada-styled nihongami wigs. They are also wearing white makeup traditionally worn by Geishas, who are Japanese hostesses trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song.

Those dressed in the attire stood greeting guests inside.

Images containing the two figures have since been deleted from the club’s social media page.

The cocktail bar adorns opulent Japanese features inside – such as ornamental trees filled with cherry blossom, traditional artwork and a karaoke booth – including a bar serving beverages with a ‘Japanese twist’.

The news sparked a heated debate online over cultural appropriation and whether it is right for the venue to profit from its cultural theming.

Corine Shimazu, a recent graduate in English and American Literature at the University of Kent, told InQuire of her “disappointment” amid hearing about the controversy.

Born in Shibuya, Tokyo, Shimazu has said the whole situation has been “difficult to actually put into words.” She questions the club’s decision to have workers dressed in traditional Japanese attire, as well as the club’s motto to ‘live and serve by the Japanese Ichi-go Ichi-e’ which loosely translates to ‘One Time One Meeting’.

“Ichigo Ichie means treating people with respect and I think they are reducing this Japanese mentality to a mere ‘concept’ of the club, because if they truly understood the meaning of the phrase they’d try to represent Japanese culture more respectfully and accurately, rather than having two white people wearing ‘kimonos’ that are a little to revealing compared to the traditional kimonos we have

“I do think the way they dressed these people make them look as though they are sexualising and fetishising our culture.

Kent Union vice-president (welfare) Omolade Adedapo said: “We need to discuss how fetishization and mockery of Asian culture has become so commonplace to the extent that some established a whole business based on cultural appropriation and mocking another culture for profit.

“If we put the same energy when someone does blackface maybe this wouldn’t be so common.

“This is actually uncalled for in 2018 and I really hope students collectively boycott this venue.”

Caelan McDonnell, Student Ambassador at Canterbury Christ Church University, “doesn’t recommend” Tokyo Tea Rooms, writing on the club’s review section on its Facebook Page that “cultural appropriation and yellow face isn’t the best business idea”.

Meanwhile, others have come out in defence of the revamped club.

“[Tokyo Tea Rooms] is a great new venue with amazing decor and atmosphere, “ said local resident Richard Durrant.

“The Music was great. Would totally recommend an evening out to this new cocktail bar.”

Japanese native Sean Langan, who is half-Japanese half-British told InQuire: “Japanese people generally aren’t concerned with political correctness as much as Westerners, and I think the majority of Japanese people won’t find this offensive.”

The former Steinbeck and Shaw nightclub in St George’s Place underwent a £1 million makeover back in July, after being taken over by hospitality specialists Distinctive Bars, who also run Club Chemistry in Station Road West.

The company, owned by the Jones family, hoped the club to be a departure from the previous venue and instead bring in a fresh, unique, stylish and ‘grown-up’ experience for customers.

Tokyo Tea Rooms have been approached for comment but have yet to respond.

*”Cultural appropriation,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”






About The Author

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Tweets

  • Today is ! Head down to see some great student bands!
  • Update for those graduating: Additional graduation tickets will be available for purchase from 10am on Wednesday 1st June
  • ENTERTAINMENT | Jack Hsuan reviews PC game !…
  • Lecturer strikes start today. Read why here…
  • Update: Exams which are set to take place at the same time as the lecturer strikes will go ahead as normal.…


Latest Issue

Latest Issue

Recent Posts