Happy 58th Birthday, Shofuso!

Shofuso in the 1960s, from a film slide.

On this day in 1958, Shofuso opened to the public in Fairmount Park. Originally built in 1953 as a gift from Japan to the United States to symbolize post-war peace, it was first exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of an architectural exhibition. Following the exhibition, it was relocated to Philadelphia. Shofuso was designed by architect Junzo Yoshimura using traditional Japanese building techniques, including the minimization of structural nails. Its roof, made from hinoki cypress bark, is harvested with special permission from … Continue reading →

Experience and Make Friends in Nara, Japan


The 2017 Japan America Grassroots Summit will be held in Nara, an ancient capital city that treasures its people alongside its traditional architecture including Buddhist statues, temples, and shrines. Some of them were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Japanese National Treasures. The Japan-America Grassroots Summit is an annual large-scale meeting of Japanese and American citizens, held alternately in Japan and America. It celebrates the historic friendship between Nakahama Manjiro and Captain William Whitfield. Whitfield rescued the marooned Manjiro in 1841 and shared his own home with him. Later, … Continue reading →

Kobe: Philly’s Sister City in Japan


Thanks to Lower Merion’s famous basketball export, most Philadelphians are familiar with the city of Kobe and its delicious eponymous beef. What you may not know is that Kobe and Philadelphia have been sister cities since October 17, 1986. This year, JASGP will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our relationship at our Annual Meeting on November 15 at City Hall. Before the celebration, I thought it would be interesting to share a little background on both the city of Kobe and our relationship. Back in the early ’80s, Kobe … Continue reading →

Teens Dig History at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

1876 Japanese Bazaar, Fairmount Park.

Visitors often comment about the tranquility and beauty of the seventeenth-century style house and the surrounding garden at Shofuso. A question I have heard a lot is: “How did all of this wind up here in Fairmount Park?” I think the answer is pretty interesting and a new grant-funded program at Shofuso is teaching teenagers about this unique history as well as giving them an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and actually dig for it. In a nutshell, the house was part of an architectural exhibition at MOMA from … Continue reading →

Kiri-e Artist Shu Kubo to be Honored During Annual Meeting


Shu Kubo, a contemporary Japanese artist who works in kiri-e, or papercutting, will be honored at Philadelphia’s City Hall on November 15 as part of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia’s annual meeting. Kubo, who is part of the revival of papercutting in Japan and abroad, will create an original kiri-e rendering of Shofuso during his visit. Historically, kiri-e were created with black or brown washi (a paper made from mulberry and other plant fibers), which was then cut with scissors, pen knives, and steel needles. Unlike other Japanese … Continue reading →