真Truth (shin) 善Goodness (zen) 美Beauty (bi)
These traditional Japanese values are represented by the melding of history and culture at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, a traditional-style Japanese house and garden that reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia, from the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the installation of its contemporary paintings in 2007. Shofuso was built in Japan in 1953 using traditional techniques and materials and exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was moved to Philadelphia in 1958, to the site of several previous Japanese structures and gardens dating to the 1876 Centennial Exposition.
The grounds on which the Japanese House now stands have contained a Japanese structure and landscaping almost continuously since 1876, when the Japanese Bazaar and Dwelling were in the area. From 1905 until a fire in 1955, the site was occupied by a 14th century Japanese Buddhist temple gate. This gate had been brought to the United States for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, MO and donated by the Japanese consul.
Shofuso in its present incarnation was built in Nagoya, Japan in 1953, using traditional materials and techniques, exhibited at MoMA as part of “The House in the Museum Garden” series, and moved to the temple gate site in Philadelphia when the exhibition closed.
Three traditional types of Japanese gardens comprise our 1.2 acre site: a hill-and-pond style garden which is intended to be viewed from the veranda; a tsubo-niwa, or courtyard garden in the style of an urban 17th century Kyoto garden; and a roji, or tea garden, which is a rustic path to our tea house.
The Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG), a private nonprofit organization, has administered, operated, funded, and preserved the city-owned site since 1982. In 1999, FJHG raised $1.2 million to replace the hinoki bark roof, the only one of its kind outside Japan, and in 2007, FJHG installed new fusuma murals created by contemporary Japanese artist, Hiroshi Senju. The murals, titled Waterfall, replaced those destroyed by vandals in the 1970s.
In 2012, FJHG partnered with the City of Philadelphia and renovated the 1876 Sakura Pavilion, two of four remaining buildings from the 1876 Centennial Exposition. The Sakura Pavilion project won the 2012 History In Pennsylvania Stewardship Award and now provides year-round space for programming, classes, meetings, events, receptions, and exhibitions. The historic Sakura Pavilion anchors Shofuso in Philadelphia’s history in a new way and confirms Shofuso as the embodiment of friendship between Japan and the United States.
Preservation at the Japanese House
Japanese gardens are living collections, and FJHG restored the 1957-58 historic landscape of Japanese designer Tansai Sano in 2012 under the guidance of horticultural consultant and Japanese garden expert Asher Browne.
FJHG has committed to using Sano’s general principles as its guiding standards and are working to return original site lines and borrowed views. The goal is to authentically represent Shofuso’s history and Japanese culture while recapturing the 1957-58 Sano design.
Preservation Pennsylvania awarded FJHG its 2013 Initiatives in Education Preservation Award for incorporating our 2012 $75,000 historic landscape restoration into our site interpretation and educational programming.
About the Japanese House
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is a traditional-style Japanese house and nationally-ranked garden in West Fairmount Park that reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia, from the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the installation of its contemporary paintings in 2007. Shofuso hosts over 30,000 visitors each year from more than 20 different countries. 10% of our visitors are school groups.