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Model Japanese house in US park offers cultural lesson

Philadelphia exhibition celebrates links over 150 years

Built in Japan in 1953, Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa) was dismantled and brought to the U.S. the following year. The striking blend of traditional and modern aesthetics continues to captivate visitors to the house's current site in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. (Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia)

TOKYO -- There is a model 17th century Japanese house squatting in the middle of a park in Philadelphia. It has been there for 63 years, but not many knew why until the city's Japan America Society staged an exhibition called "Shofuso and Modernism: Mid-Century Collaboration Between Japan and Philadelphia." Meant to highlight the JapanPhilly2020 campaign -- an Olympics-related celebration of nearly 150 years of transcultural exchange between Japan and the city -- the exhibition ran from September through November 2020.

The story of the Shofuso (Pine Breeze Villa) house and grounds brings together four artists from Europe, the U.S. and Japan: Antonin Raymond, an architect from Prague; his French wife Noemi, an interior decorator; famed prizewinning Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura, designer of International House of Japan in Tokyo and the Japan Society building in New York; and George Nakashima, a Japanese-American wood craftsman and furniture designer.

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