Published: 15:43, 22 August 2018
| Updated: 07:02, 23 August 2018
A new Japanese-themed cocktail bar has been branded "disgusting and offensive" by leading Kent Union student officials who are calling for it to be boycotted.
It follows the launch of Tokyo Tea Rooms in St George's Place, Canterbury, on Friday night where 'geisha girls' were hired as part of the entertainment.
The venue has now admitted that element of the night was an error of judgement and says it will not happen again.
But the owners have denied allegations that the theme of the bar itself is offensive.
The criticism is being led by Omolade Adedapo, who is vice-president (welfare) for Kent Union at the University of Kent.
Writing on her Facebook page, she claimed it is "cultural appropriation " which made a mockery of another culture.
She says: "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."
Her concerns are echoed in replies by Kent Union's black students officer Kg Banjoko who suggested a protest against the venue and vice-president (activities), Sasha Langeveldt who labels the venue 'disgusting, ignorant and offensive'.
Writing on the review section on the venue's Facebook page, student ambassador at Canterbury Christ Church University, Caelan McDonnell “doesn’t recommend” Tokyo Tea Rooms, adding that “cultural appropriation and yellow face isn’t the best business idea”.
One of the main objections was the use by an entertainment company hired by the venue of white girls dressed as geishas.
Tokyo Tea Rooms promotions and marketing manager Matthew Jones-Roberts admits that was an error of judgment and will not be repeated. Pictures of the girls have also been removed from its Facebook page.
But he rejects allegations of racism against the business and cultural appropriation and mocking Japanese culture.
Responding to the criticism on Facebook, he said: "I think this needs to be put into perspective. Clearly decisions were made that have caused offence. That was not the intention but it has created a positive conversation about cultural appropriation if people are willing to have it.
"Unfortunately a small local business is being attacked and made out to have attacked a culture maliciously which is clearly not the case."
Later he told the Gazette: "What we are doing is celebrating Japanese culture not mocking it.
"Of course, we are sorry if we caused offence but there is nothing wrong with a Japanese themed-bar or an Australian-themed bar for that matter, which you see all over the world."