This one-acre parcel in West Fairmount Park has served as a display of Japanese design and culture since the 1876 Centennial Exposition. During the first decade of the 20th century, the garden was home to a 17th century gate imported from a Japanese Buddhist Temple for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, before it was destroyed by fire in 1955.
In 1958 landscape architect Tansai Sano designed the country’s first postwar Japanese garden on the site, which featured a koi pond, a waterfall and a large stone statue of the Buddhist deity Jizo. The garden is planted with cherry laurels, plum and dogwood trees, as well as a bamboo grove, stone pagoda, and over 80 carefully placed Japanese boulders. A trail leads to a tea garden with a ceremonial teahouse, while a step-stone path lined with Japanese maples and azaleas leads to Shofuso, meaning “Pine Breeze Villa.” The shoin-style, tatami-matted house was built using 17th-century construction techniques by Junzo Yoshimura in 1953 and was first exhibited in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art in 1954, before being relocated to Philadelphia in 1958. The house and garden were restored in honor of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, and the walled courtyard garden was redesigned in 1982 by Masao Kinoshita. In 2007 twenty murals by artist Hiroshi Senju, entitled Waterfall, were installed within the interior of Shofuso. The garden was listed along with Fairmount Park in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.