MP accused of “taking cues from nutty students” in Tokyo Tea Rooms row

Geisha Girls at the opening of Tokyo Tea Rooms

Canterbury’s Labour MP has been accused of “taking cues from nutty students’ unions” after she waded into the Tokyo Tea Rooms row.

Ms Duffield says she agrees with city student leaders that the St George’s Place nightspot is guilty of “cultural appropriation” after it held an opening night party featuring geisha girls.

It prompted student union leaders from Kent and Christ Church universities to claim the geisha girls’ presence was offensive.

Reporting the furore over the opening, the acerbic Westminster news and comment site Guido Fawkes said: “Labour’s new MP for Canterbury has publicly criticised a local nightclub called the Tokyo Tea Rooms because workers dressed in kimonos and geisha-style makeup.

“The Labour Party is now taking cues from the kind of nutty students’ unions that banned newspapers, clapping, and sombreros.”

Canterbury and Whitstable Labour MP Rosie Duffield

Writing on her official Facebook page Ms Duffield had said: “I was disappointed to see that Canterbury’s latest venue Tokyo Tea Rooms took such a culturally insensitive approach on their opening night last weekend.

“By doing this, Tokyo Tea Rooms’ owners crossed the line from cultural appreciation to cultural appropriation.

“I’m really pleased to see student representatives from Kent Union and  Canterbury Christ Church University have spoken out against the nightclub and discouraged students from attending.”

The club, formerly Steinbeck and Shaw, is owned and operated by Conservative councillor Louise Jones-Roberts and her husband Matthew, a former council candidate.

They have apologised for any offence caused by its alleged cultural appropriation, the act of borrowing from a culture which is not one’s one, but say the criticism of the venue “feels like a personal attack”.

But Mr Jones-Roberts said: “We are a small local business. Some people have brought to our attention in a calm and private way explaining why they thought the geishas were inappropriate.

“I don’t think the theme of the bar is an issue. There’s a real ethos behind the venue of cultural appreciation.

‘We really looked into it and the culture is so interesting and rich. We wanted to bring something new to the city of Canterbury.

“People are entitled to their opinion. But it’s a new business, something we have worked really hard on. All the feedback we have had so far is that the business is a breath of fresh air.”

Many in Canterbury have rallied to the nightclub’s defence. Rachel Newman said: “I can’t believe all the fuss around this harmless fun.”

Joanna Jones added: “Dressing up as a geisha putting on white make up and this is all for the sake of a bar where people get pissed up.

“It’s not the end of the world and there’s more to worry about but it isn’t right it is cultural appropriation as by defined by what cultural appropriation mean.”

And Elijah Gould said: “Has [Ms Duffield] really got nothing better to do? Pretty typical of an irrelevant wishy-washy MP with no real opinions of her own, blurting out what she thinks is most fashionable politically correct thing to say. Seems to have backfired a bit.”

Read our writer’s thoughts on the issue here.


  1. Were I the local MP I’d have left this one well alone! Sadly for Ms Duffield, she’s now going to collect.

    Every January, I attend a Burns’ Night supper. I wear the kilt and drink a wee dram, or three. Does that make me guilty of some kind of hideous cultural offence? My Scottish hosts appear to think not.
    I regularly work in Sweden (perhaps the most PC country in Europe) and meet colleagues in a pub called the Bishop’s Arms, which is part of a chain of Swedish “English” hostelries, stuffed full of things that Swedes think we cram into our locals. Am I offended? No, at the very worst, I’m mildly amused!
    There’s a very popular Irish pub in Helsinki called Molly Malone’s (Plastic Paddy pubs are to be found all over the world) but I’ve never heard the Taoiseach complain about such cultural Micky-taking.

    Many genuine “English” pubs host parties celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Bastille Day, American Independence Day and many other occasions which originate in parts foreign. On these days, pubs are decked out in stereotypical style and punters dress up in shamrock hats, leprechaun suits, striped jerseys (onions optional) and loud, brash clothes topped off with stetsons. It’s just like the Irish, French and Americans were really in the room! For God’s sake, they’re only theatrical props and in exactly the same way, the Geishas at Tokyo Tea Rooms were simply acting out a part.

    That Ms Duffield has spoken in favour of the wibbly-wobbly snowflakes, who see no further than their overused keyboards, does her no favours whatsoever. If the owners had employed actors dressed as kamikaze pilots, brutal POW camp guards, or Chinese civilian-slaughtering Japanese soldiers, then perhaps she’d be right to represent our utter disapproval at such abysmal taste: but they didn’t.

    In a couple of weeks’ time, the streets of Canterbury will become the bottle-strewn, vomit puddle that is Freshers’ Week. Over the past few years, it’s become fashionable for UKC’s/CCCU’s freshers to wear fancy dress on their pub crawls. I may go along to the campuses and watch all the freshers having to line up before they set off, as I assume Ms Duffield and her Students’ Union friends will insist on all freshers having to parade, whilst their fancy dress is inspected by them for strict political correctness, unyielding cultural appropriateness and 100% plastic-free greenness. Yeah, right!

    One thing’s for sure, if the Tokyo Tea Rooms are offering freshers cheap shots of rice wine and half price saki, then any mealy-mouthed boycott mandated by Ms Duffield and the hand-wringing SU is going to fall on rather deaf ears.
    I don’t think there will be much tea drunk!


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