Culture

Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center is open for the season with new attractions

Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean

Philadelphia is a bustling city full of excitement and bursting with busy streets. The need to find a place of beauty, peace, and tranquility is needed now more than ever. Thankfully, The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia is welcoming Philadelphians to recover and renew by visiting Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center this spring. This hidden gem is a 17th-century-style Japanese house and garden in Fairmount Park. Shofuso is open and ready to receive visitors safely, all while enjoying the beauty of the blooms to come.

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean )

Designed by mid-century modernist architect, Junzo Yoshimura in 1953, the house has stood in the open park since 1958. It’s one of the most authentic representations of Japanese architecture in the country and draws over 30,000 visitors annually.

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

The grounds feature a stone pagoda (donated by former Kyoto Mayor Gizo Takayama), a hill and pond garden, a tea house, a bathhouse, a kitchen, a tea garden, a courtyard garden, and much more.

Vendors selling Japanese or Japan-inspired goods/services will be linked to the japanphilly.org website.

New for 2021

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

New for 2021, visitors will see the just-completed Pebble Beach alongside the central pond. Based on newly-discovered 1957 drawings made by Shofuso’s original garden designer, Tansai Sano, Shofuso brought to life a traditional Suhama Pebble Beach on the garden’s boat-landing shoreline. This archetypal Japanese Garden motif invokes the spirit of the pebble-strewn shorelines of Kyoto’s Kamo River and the rocky coasts of Japan, by incorporating elegantly designed stretches of pebbled beach along a garden pond’s lowest contours.

To celebrate the start of the 2021 spring season, JASGP is conducting the Shofuso Cherry Blossom Viewing, which includes both socially-distanced activities and virtual programming throughout April. From a Virtual Marketplace to a Cherry Blossom Viewing and Virtual Ohanami, plus a virtual 10K, there are a number of ways to recover and renew while enjoying Shofuso’s beauty this spring.

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

Every year when the cherry trees bloom, friends and family gather under the blossoms to have flower-
viewing picnics, called Ohanami in Japan. Pick up a Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Ohanami map at Shofuso (or download it from japanphilly.org) and plan an Ohanami picnic to enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting outdoors and watching the delicate petals float on the spring breeze while enjoying fresh air under the blooming cherry trees around Philadelphia.

Also new for 2021, Japanese artist Hiro Sakaguchi hand-painted a new map of Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Ohanami – helping visitors find Cherry Blossoms throughout Fairmount Park as well as other spots around the City of Philadelphia. Sakaguchi was born in Nagano, Japan and moved to the United States in the 1990s to study art at the University of the Arts (BFA) and PAFA (MFA). Sakaguchi has had over 35 solo and group exhibitions, having shown at various venues locally and internationally, and is also a curator. He is an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The map will be available for pick-up at Shofuso and sold as a 14” x 21” poster in the gift shop.

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

Flowering cherry trees have been a symbol of friendship between Philadelphia and Japan since 1,600 cherry trees were gifted from Japan to Philadelphia in 1926 to commemorate the American Sesquicentennial. In 1933, Japanese residents of the Philadelphia region gifted an additional 500 cherry trees and planted them alongside John B. Kelly Drive. The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia organized the planting of 1,000 new cherry trees in Philadelphia between 1998 and 2007. JASGP has been working with neighborhood communities continuously since 2008 to plant cherry trees in Clark Park, Franklin Square, and Morris Park to help build green and peaceful urban communities.

Events 

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

Shofuso Cherry Blossom Virtual Ohanami (Saturday, April 10, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.; $15/ $10 for JASGP Members)

Spring starts at Shofuso with this Ohanami program, live from Shofuso, and will include a beautiful presentation of ohanami or cherry blossom appreciation, Tamagawa University taiko performance (pre-recorded in Japan), activities, demonstrations, and crafts that highlight cherry blossom culture. This event is dedicated to Abana Jacobs, a colleague lost to COVID-19 in 2020 who worked with JASGP on the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festivals for many years.

• 11th Annual Shofuso Cherry Blossom 10k/5k (Saturday, April 10 – Sunday, April 18; $45 race fee)

This year, the Annual Cherry Blossom 10K/5K will be virtual. Upon registration through RunSignUp. runners can complete their distances on their own schedule at the sanctioned course among the cherry trees near Shofuso, on their regular training courses, on a treadmill, or anywhere that feels right. Between Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 18, participants will complete the run/walk, submit their time, and tag Shofuso in selfies taken along the way or at the finish with the hashtag #CherryBlossom10K or #SpringStartsatShofuso.

All participants will receive a beautiful cherry blossom race t-shirt, a route map with selfie locations marked, a Japanese pump-up playlist, as well as free admission to Shofuso during the 2021 season. Prizes will be awarded for winners in fun selfie categories: Cutest pet, Most glamorous outfit, Most beautiful background, Silliest outfit, Most scenic route.

Registration ends at midnight on April 17.

Health and Safety Protocols at Shofuso

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

The health and safety of visitors and staff is Shofuso’s top priority. Along with being an open-air outdoor space, JASGP follows guidance from the CDC and the City of Philadelphia to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • Site capacity is strictly controlled with a one-in, one-out policy and separate entrance and exit areas.
  • Face coverings are required at all times for both guests and staff.
  • Guests are requested to maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others.
  • The doors acting as the walls of the house are removed daily, providing extra airflow throughout Shofuso.
  • Visitors can view, but not enter, closed-in spaces such as the tea house and bathhouse.
  • A one-way path has been established inside the house.
  • Hand sanitizer stations are in place at both the site entrance and exit.

Visiting 

(Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center // Photo by Candis R. McLean)

Tickets can be purchased online for contactless admission or in-person. The Japanese Cultural Center is open for group tours Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, through October 2021. Scheduled group tours are available for groups of 5 to 12 people, plus 1 additional chaperone for school groups. For regular admission visitors, pick-up tours are available, subject to staff availability. Virtual tours are also scheduled seasonally via Zoom.

Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, college students with IDs, and children 5-17 years old. It’s also $2 for ACCESS cardholders with ID (plus up to four family members for $2 each). The center is free for members, children under the age of 5, and active duty military ID holders (plus up to five family members), and teens 13-19 with the Philly STAMP pass.

Hours of Operation:

April through October 2021: Wednesday-Sunday (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
November through December 2021: Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)


You can follow Candis McLean on Twitter (@CandisRMcLean) and e-mail her at candis.mclean@gmail.com.

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