A picture from five years ago resurfaced on Tumblr, and sparked an intense debate about culture misappropriation.
The picture, from November 2012, was shared by mom Heidi on her blog “The Gala Gals.” The pictures were of the Japanese-themed party Heidi had thrown for her daughter.
One user, ginzers, commented on the post: "Teach children this is not ok."
The party featured a cherry blossom centerpiece, Japanese teacups, chopsticks, and traditional Japanese outfits. Heidi’s daughter and her friends were wearing geisha makeup and kimonos.
When one user stated that they saw nothing wrong with the party’s theme, ginzers replied: "The makeup is clearly reflective of traditional geisha makeup which is yellowface and therefore racist. Furthermore, the girl is wearing a kimono, a garment that has for ages carried cultural significance. Assuming that she is white how can you think this is ok? And cultural appropriation isn't a thing? What rock do you live under? I suggest you educate yourself on the differences between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation."
However, cheshireinthemiddle wrote: "I am Japanese, in Japan at this very moment. The only people who think culture shouldn't be shared are racists like you. A vast majority of Japanese people actually enjoy other people making an effort to spread and enjoy Japanese culture, and encourage it. Many make businesses in deliberately taking pictures of people in kimono. A common omiage (gift) for foreigners from Japanese people is traditional Japanese things such as kimonos, tea seats, shisa dog statues, etc (sic)."
The user added that Japan has heavily influenced other cultures in the past, including China, Korea, and Europe: “if Japan stuck to itself, there would be no tempura, Japanese tea, tea ceremonies, kabuki, Japanese bread, Japanese curry, j-pop, anime, cars, or modern fishing techniques."
She concluded: "The picture is not 'yellow face' they are not making fun of Asians. In fact, it looks like they put extra care and research into their work. The only reason that you have a problem with this is because that little girl is white and you know that it is acceptable on tumblr to crap all over white people. The only racist here is you."
Another user, littleblackchat, wrote: "This party is an attempt at experiencing and appreciating another culture. The mom who put this together is not an expert on Japan, but she did her best. She got a lot of things right: there are few things Japan loves more than tea, Pocky, and sakura."
Littleblackchat then raised several important questions: "Where do you draw the line for who is 'allowed' to learn about Japan? If the girl were of Japanese descent, would that make it OK? If one of the girl's parents were from Japan, then would it be OK? Are you only allowed to make pizza if you live in Italy? If you're an Italian immigrant? How do we decide these things?"
Ginzers has not replied to the comments.