Philadelphia’s multiculturism is one of our favorite aspects of this great American city. If you’re a Japanophile, you may know that the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia regularly hosts a variety of events, exhibitions, and programs celebrating Japanese culture. Additionally, the society is in charge of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, a traditional 17th-century-style Japanese home right in the middle of Fairmount Park. Our Philadelphia adoption agents love visiting this home and think any fan of Japanese culture or history should check it out while in Philadelphia.
History of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Shofuso’s origins begin in the 1950s, with the house first being conceived as part of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The house was designed by Japanese modernist architect Junzo Yoshimura in 1953, and it was built in Nagoya, Japan with traditional materials and methods. The house was part of a series called “The House in the Museum Garden” at MoMA, which exhibited three different types of structures that influenced mid-century modern American architecture.
Shofuso remained at MoMA from 1948 through 1954, before it was transported to Philadelphia. It was reassembled at its current home in Fairmount Park between 1957 and 58. Today, the house is owned by the City of Philadelphia but cared for and preserved by a nonprofit called the Friends of the Japanese House and Garden (FJHG).
Paintings of Hiroshi Senju
Hiroshi Senju, one of Japan’s most highly-regarded contemporary artists and one with international acclaim, created 20 full-scale murals just for the Shofuso House and Garden. These murals are installed on decorative paper sliding doors called fusuma and in the central tokonoma alcove. They replaced the original murals, which were destroyed by vandals in the 1970s. This art installation was the first of its kind in the United States.
The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia regularly hosts celebrations of Japanese holidays and festivals which help bring Japanese culture to Philadelphia, including:
- Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival – This is the largest JASGP event, which celebrates the return of spring in April with a week-long schedule of activities leading to the main event on the weekend.
- Children’s Day – Held each May, this program showcases childhood games and activities like kamishibai, crafts, and koinobori (koi flags).
- Obon – Held each August, this Buddhist festival welcomes home one’s ancestors with local dances, tea demonstrations, yukata, and crafts.
- Yokai Weekend – Not really a traditional holiday, but a Japanese take on Halloween celebrated during Shofuso’s final weekend of the year in late October.
- Shichi-go-san – This activity is for kids and named for the recognized ages. Seven (shichi) and three(san) year-old-girls and five (go) year old boys dress in kimono for formal pictures.