Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center in Fairmount Park brings Asian culture to the city

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — During the celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, there’s an added focus on various Asian cultures and their impact on the Philadelphia area.

One of those impacts comes from a local site that brings the Far East to the city.

The Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center in Fairmount Park has a history that’s as rich as the legacy of Japanese Americans in Philadelphia dating back hundreds of years.

“You feel like you are in Kyoto, Japan. The garden represents the essence, core of the Japanese elements,” said Kazumi Teune, executive director of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia.

Teune came to Philadelphia from Japan in 1982. She says the Shofuso house reminds her of traditional Japanese-style houses she saw growing up in Tokyo.

She also notes that the Shofuso house is molded in the style of a 17th-century home and is as authentic as they come.

“This house was a gift of Japanese government and friends to the City of Philadelphia,” Teune said.

She noted that the house was disassembled and first brought to New York City to be on display for two years before making its way to Philadelphia.

“Fairmount Park, this spot was chosen by the city,” she said.

The house was built in Japan in 1956 and made its way to Philadelphia in 1958 as a show of goodwill.

“Please remember that when we ended World War II, (the United States and Japan) were enemies, but corporations and citizens got together to show the friendship,” said Teune.

Philadelphia has been home to people who have migrated from Japan for hundreds of years.

“Philadelphia and Japan’s connection is much deeper than it seems. During the 1850s a score of Japanese samurai warriors came to Philadelphia,” said Teune.

The Shofuso house and garden hold a special distinction that reaches far beyond the city.

“This is one of the top Japanese gardens in the United States,” she said.

Sandi Polyakov is charged with caring for it as a garden curator and director of preservation at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden.

“It’s a very involved process taking care of a garden and space like this,” he said. “This is the only structure outside of Japan, basically in the whole world, that has a full-sized Hinoke bar roof such as this.”

The house is open to the public. Teune said, oftentimes, her friends who are from Japan will come to the house to reflect on their childhood.

“To represent traditional Japanese culture is very, very important to us,” she said.

Even though it sits in the middle of the popular Fairmount Park, not far from the attention-attracting Please Touch Museum, not as many people know about the cultural gem.

“Most people do not know that the Japanese house and garden is here,” said Teune. “Our mission is to introduce this house to more people in Philadelphia. I always say that you can experience Japan in Philadelphia.”

The Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is timed by ticket and ticket prices may vary.

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