Each spring, people flock to Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park for the city’s annual cherry blossom festival. The setting is perfect with countless cherry trees and Shofuso, a traditional Japanese home and garden. But through those warm spring, summer and fall months, you can visit Shofuso even if those famous blossoms are not on display. The house and garden is a special gem you wouldn’t expect to stumble upon within the park. And it’s one you shouldn’t miss either!
The History of Shofuso
A Japanese home surrounded by a Japanese style garden, Shofuso was built in 1953. It was designed by Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura. A gift from the Japanese people to the American people, it was originally used in an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Today, you can visit the 1.2 acre site and walk through the garden, feed the koi fish that live in the pond or take a self-guided tour of the home.
Shofuso do hold regular events. The day that I visited they were holding a tea ceremony. Check their schedule ahead of time in order to secure tickets if you are interested. If you simply want to tour the property, it is open April through October. It is worth noting that there is free on-site parking for visitors.
Shofuso is a wonderful place for contemplation. There are so many details to admire. From the rain chains that serve as downspouts off the edges of the building to the tatami mats inside the home. There are signs, hidden among the grass, that explain traditional aspects of the property and stone statues tucked away behind bushes.
“Shoes on stone, socks on wood,” states a sign quoting an old Japanese saying. Those wanting to venture into the home will have to remove their shoes. There is a small bench and a wooden shelf for holding your shoes before entering. Inside the dimensions are more petite than what you find in most modern Western homes. Doorways and ceilings, in particular, are a bit lower.
Admittedly Shofuso is on the small side. It is especially small when compared to the, relatively speaking, massive and impressive Japanese tea house and garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
While a visit to Shofuso will likely be a brief affair, for those interested in Japanese culture or architecture it will definitely be a must see. A visit to Shofuso would compliment a visit to the Cherry Blossom Festival — even if the trees are not quite in full bloom. Shofuso is a secret gem that is quietly hidden in Philadelphia.
Shofuso is located in Fairmount Park and only open April through October. Be ready to remove your shoes (and wear good, clean socks!) if you want to enter the house.
There is free parking available onsite.
The closest public transportation stop is via SEPTA Bus 38 or 40. You can also use the Please Touch Museum stop on PhillyPhlash. Shofuso is about a five minute walk from the stop.
All photos are my own.