Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
The Shofuso (pine breeze villa) Japanese House and Garden features a 17th century-style Japanese house and a 1.2-acre garden. Both are located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park on the former site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition. The house was a post-World War II gift to America that was first erected in 1953 in Nagoya, Japan. It arrived in Philadelphia, via New York City, in 1958 and has been at its current location ever since. The Japanese gardens are quite a bit older than the house and date back to 1876. The house and gardens are now owned by the city and are operated and maintained by the Friends of the Japanese House and Gardens, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1982.
Backstory and Context
In the late 1940s, New York’s Museum of Modern Art initiated a series of exhibitions entitled “House in the Garden.” The Japan-America Society then sponsored Japan’s contribution to the exhibit in the form of the Shofuso House. The house was designed by Japanese architect, Junzo Yoshimura, in the traditional Japanese style that utilized Japanese materials and minimized the use of structural nails. It was constructed in Japan in 1953, then disassembled and shipped to the Museum of Modern Art where it was reassembled in 1954. It was visited by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shigeru Yoshida, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, that same year. The exhibit closed in October of 1955 and the Museum of Modern Art then sought a new home for the house.
The perfect new home for the Shofuso House rose from the ashes of Philadelphia’s Japanese Buddhist Temple Gate, which burned to the ground in May of 1955. The temple was actually an original Japanese building that was built c. 1600 and had been exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis in 1904. It came to Philadelphia in 1909 and Japanese gardens were later improved around the temple. Since the Japanese gardens already existed in Fairmount Park, the Museum of Modern Art chose these gardens as the new home for the Shofuso House. It arrived in Philadelphia in 1958 and it ensured that a Japanese building and landscaping, that had existed at this spot since 1876, would continue.
Sadly, the house was neglected over the ensuing decades and fell into disrepair. The Japan-America Society then raised $180,000 to completely renovate the house in time for America’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976. The new gardens were designed by Tansai Sano and feature three types of traditional Japanese gardens: a hill-and-pond style, a courtyard garden and a tea garden that lines the path to a Japanese tea house.
The house’s roof was replaced in 1999 and its beauty was further enhanced by the addition of twenty waterfall murals by acclaimed Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju which were added in 2007. The house and gardens host numerous annual events, festivals and tea ceremonies throughout the year. Please call or visit their website for a calendar of events.
"Truth, Goodness, and Beauty." Japan-America Society of Greater Philadelphia. Accessed December 29, 2016. http://www.japanesehouse.org/
Fisher, Christine, "Friends group restores 137-year-old Japanese garden in West Fairmount Park." Eyes on the Street, August 15, 2013. Accessed December 29, 2016. http://planphilly.com/eyesonthestreet/2013/08/15/friends-group-restores-137-year-old-japanese-garden...
Taniguchi, Christeen. "Historical Narrative of Shofuso." Shofuso.com. Accessed December 29, 2016. http://www.shofuso.com/wp-content/uploads/Historic-Narrative.pdf