Tit Hall change June Event theme after cultural appropriation controversy

Tokyo to Kyoto transformed into ‘The Metropolis’

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Trinity Hall’s June Event has undergone a name change. Previously themed ‘Tokyo to Kyoto’, which came under fire for cultural appropriation, the Facebook event and the website now show that the theme has now become  ‘The Metropolis’.

After the theme of ‘Tokyo to Kyoto’ gained attention from members of the Cambridge community, with an article on Flygirlsofcambridge being titled ‘Japan is a Country, not a theme’, it appears that Trinity Hall have taken these concerns into consideration.

The original theme of Tokyo to Kyoto has suddenly featured a change to 'The Metropolis'

The original theme of Tokyo to Kyoto has suddenly featured a change to ‘The Metropolis’

The original theme was advertised saying to hop on board the ‘bullet train’, allowing guests to experience Japanese culture from a variety of cities. Yet the conclusion of the article was that ‘Japanese people are merely a spectacle to be viewed for entertainment’.

It seems Tit Hall reconsidered their theme in light of criticism of cultural appropriation

It seems Tit Hall reconsidered their theme in light of criticism of cultural appropriation

Not only did the theme come under fire, but an email sent out by the Anglo-Japanese society alongside asking for worker applications mentioned gave the possibility of people attending ‘who would just like to attend in Japanese traditional dress (yukata/happi) or cosplay and not work’, which the article argued put Japanese people in ‘pre-assigned roles’.

Enter 'The Metropolis'

Enter ‘The Metropolis’

The news of a theme change comes after recent controversies over cultural appropriation issues related to a Pembroke ‘Around the World in 80 Days Bop’, which also had its theme changed, and a Queens’ MCR ‘Africa Formal’, which did not.

Ellie Olcott gave a comment to The Tab, discussing the reaction of her Japanese relatives to the theme change:

‘When I told my Japanese relatives that the theme was being changed, they were shocked that any celebration of Japanese culture could be construed as offensive. The phrase ‘cultural appropriation’ is not in the Japanese vocabulary. In addition, I was personally excited for this theme because it was a chance for my friends, who haven’t been able to travel to Japan, to experience some great aspects of Japanese culture. I am privy to some of the stereotypes English people hold of Japanese- as I’m regularly asked questions like “do you eat sushi everyday”. I felt like this was a chance to bust some of those stereotypes and share in a culture that I’ve grown up with and love so much.’

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An email sent to ticket holders acknowledged that the event should not be ‘divisive’

In a statement, the Anglo-Japanese Society  expressed similar sentiments of disappointment. They acknowedlged that the event could have been a wonderful opportunity for ‘cultural appreciation’, stating ‘The Event would have been a great chance for people to see and experience some of the Japanese culture… The AJS took the initiative to collaborate with the June Event Committee as it was in line with what AJS is trying to accomplish – to promote and celebrate Japanese culture.’

Using the example of past events the society had hosted, such as Sushi making and tea ceremony performances, the society emphasised that:

‘There are many non-Japanese members who attend these events and there have been non-Japanese committee members in previous years. There is nothing culturally appropriative about this. The same applies for the June Event.’

With Clare May Ball’s ‘The Orient Express’ theme remaining currently, will the changing of a June Event theme set a precedent for future conflicts? Let us know in the poll below what you think: