Friday, August 19, 2016


Drove down to Philadelphia, PA to visit Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa), a traditional Japanese Shoin style house and garden. The garden area has existed since 1876 and the current house and garden since 1958. Check out the Shofuso history page on the web for more details.

The garden is ranked #3 by Sukiya Living Magazine (JOJG) on its top 25 list and is considered one of the most authentic in the Unites States. At first, I was skeptical, given that the garden is only 1.2 acres in size. However, after entering, I was surprised to discover that the garden lives up to its reputation. 

The House, in particular, is very authentic. It reminded me of several garden structures I had visited in Kyoto last year, especially Ryoan-ji. The grounds were also very impressive and well maintained. Many elements of a traditional Japanese viewing garden were present.

The entry way was simple and was shielded from the main garden and building by a hedge row of Japanese Holly, adding an element of anticipation as one moved closer into the grounds.

Once in the structure an onto the main viewing platform, one is presented with a spectacular view of the garden.

click here for panoramic image

Being early morning, the garden and platform were bathed with direct sunlight - a bit harsh on the eyes and hot as well. Afternoon viewing might be preferable.

Near the back of the house, is an exit that leads towards the traditional bathing and toiletry areas, as well as a small tea room. A small stream passes through this area. I found the rough hewn traditional boards for the entry portion of the deck interesting.

An elaborately designed gutter system leads to a rain chain that feeds into the stream.

The view from the small tea room was breathtaking.

There were many other features, large and small, throughout the house and garden that enhanced the authenticity of the garden experience.

On the other side of the house, is the Tea Garden, the views from which are spectacular.

click here for panoramic image
A small isolated island in the main pond, as well as a well stocked supply of Koi fish, added to the atmosphere of the garden. The pond was surrounded by Azaleas and yews, with a few Hinoki Cypress mixed in as well.

click here for panoramic image

The only downside was that the fence surrounding the main garden area was somewhat un-Japanese. It was based on a design used during the structure's original placement at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1958. To me, these walls seemed reminiscent of Chinese rather than Japanese gardens. Also, the ornamental black iron fencing seemed a bit too contemporary, allowing one to see the road through the fence. There were also several overhead electrical wires nearby that were a bit of an eye sore.

click here for panoramic image

Overall, I was pleased with the garden. It was well worth the trip. For anyone unable to travel to Japan, it should be a most memorable and authentic experience.

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