Spring is a magical time in Pennsylvania. It feels like nature is starting to wake up, warmer weather bring us into her embrace, and the branches of the trees dance with blossoms and sparks of green. In the Northeast, we typically have pretty long winters (even in the spring, we can fluctuate with colder days.) This winter was pretty tough on me personally (for more on that check out the article about my ankle injury, I will link it at the bottom of the post.) I felt like it was important to start to get out again in an outdoor setting, even in smaller steps.
My husband and I watch the news daily on PHL 17 (our local news channel, and one that I recommend if you are in or visiting the area) as part of our early wake up routine. One morning, we noticed that they did a really interesting segment on Shofuso, which is a Japanese House in the Philadelphia. We were immediately captivated, and made reservations to go soon after. As a side note, they are currently doing admission by timed tickets only, and depending on availability, they sell them in person as well at Shofuso. I would imagine that this may change in different times of the year, so make sure that you check out their website for the most up to date information regarding this (I will link this as well at the bottom of the post.)
To give you a little background on the history of this unique area, the meaning of Shofuso is “Pine Breeze Villa.” The Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura designed it in 1953 as part of an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The house was actually built in Nagoya Japan utilizing traditional materials and techniques. It was part of “The House in the Museum Garden” series that displayed three different types of structures that influenced mid-century modern American architecture. Shofuso was moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania at the conclusion of this exhibit. Shofuso has also garnered accolades, and was named the third ranked Japanese garden in North America by the Journal of Japanese Gardening in 2016, it is a contributing structure to the Fairmount Park National Historic District since 1972, and was even listed on the respected Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2013.
On the day that we went, we were really lucky, because the weather felt mild, and it was the perfect day to explore Shofuso and its amazing garden. One thing that we appreciated as we drove up to the area was how ample the parking was, and it was lined up close the the building as well. As we walked through the gate, we were ushered into a small line to confirm our ticket reservation.
While we were waiting, one of the sweet individuals that were working that day let us know where we could store our shoes before entering the Japanese House. There was a very nice rack that was lined with shelves that provided the space for the shoes. It is a way to keep the visit in Japanese tradition, as well as preserving this historic building. You will need to wear socks for this, so I recommend bringing them with you ahead of time. In the garden region, you will need your shoes again, so it is just in the house that you will take them off.
The building at Shofuso is so delicately beautiful, and each room is decorated quite nicely representing different areas of a home. You do feel like you are in another time and place (it is a 17th century Japanese house in style) and is simply tranquil and elegant. There is a deep respect for culture and you really are transported directly into it.
As you travel through the building, you will notice these gorgeous art designs that light up the middle of the house. These are the art murals that were created from the internationally acclaimed nihon-ga painter Hiroshi Senju who is actually one of Japan’s most revered contemporary artists as well. The mural is composed on decorative paper sliding doors known as fusuma, and Shofuso is the first place in the United States to house such a traditional art installation like this. I know that we felt very moved looking at it, and it fit perfectly in this peaceful place.
After we walked through the house, we slipped our shoes back on so that we could explore the outside courtyard garden and pond with koi fish. The garden is so delightful, and the spring time colors were shining through. We noticed that you can sit down on the edge of the house so we did relax and just take in the views for a bit. At the time we went, they did sell food to feed the koi, so we were pretty excited about that!
The koi were so beautiful in their bright colors, and really seemed to enjoy this feeding time! We were surprised to see catfish joining in, so that was a very neat surprise. Off in the distance, we noticed turtles basking in the sunshine of the day.
If you are traveling to Philadelphia, or even just live in the area, I highly recommend that you visit Shofuso. It is an amazing area to appreciate the beautiful Japanese culture, architecture, art, and enjoy a spectacular garden. Let me know in the comments if you have traveled here before and what you thought about it as well. I hope that you are having a wonderful day, and remember to click that subscribe button!
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-For Additional Reading
If you are traveling to the Pennsylvania region, and are interested in learning about its history, a really amazing resource is the book “Pennsylvania A History of the Commonwealth” by which is edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak. It is so informative, and reviews the history of our state, in addition to the geography, architecture, archaeology, art history, and even stories of folklore and folklife that are specific to this area.
I personally recommend this book if you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania, or even if you are just interested in learning about the state in general. If you would like to check it out, click on the link below!
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