Shofuso House fundraising to repair vandalism damage

Shofuso House in Fairmount Park. (Courtesy of Shofuso)

Shofuso House in Fairmount Park. (Courtesy of Shofuso)

The Shofuso House in Philadelphia is looking for help recovering from an act of vandalism.

Last month the traditional Japanese house and garden in Fairmount Park suffered damage to a mural by contemporary artist Hiroshi Senju during a break-in. Police regard the incident as a random act of vandalism, not a targeted hate crime.

Now the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia is trying to raise $75,000 to recover through an online crowdsourcing campaign. According to interim director Kazumi Teune, it has become one of the society’s most successful fundraising efforts. So far, in three days, it has raised over $10,000 from more than 160 people.

Teune said help is coming from beyond Philadelphia.

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“We can go through the networks of Japanese gardens in the United States, and many of them are very, very supportive of us,” she said. “We are one of the very rare, genuine Japanese houses in the United States. It may look just like an old house, but this is authentic 17th-century style.”

The incident has also attracted the attention of the consulate general of Japan in this region, Mikio Mori, who according to Teune has met with Philadelphia police and the FBI.

The Shofuso House was a gift from Japan to Philadelphia in 1956. It is owned by the city and operated by the Japan America Society, which also runs the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

On the night of June 15, unknown perpetrators caused minor damage to other parts of the house but the main concern is scratches made on the abstract waterfall mural painted on paper panels, which has an estimated value of about $2 million.

The cost to repair the work by Senju is not yet known but could be five figures.

“The issue was that the paper and frame were from Japan. We thought at one time we would have to ship it to Japan, but it seems like we don’t need to do that,” said Teune. “We don’t know the monetary damage yet because we may have to take out the mural and conserve it in some other locations.”

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Funds raised in this campaign will also go toward upgrading the security systems of the Shofuso House. Teune said that at the time of the crime the alarm system was not working.

“The initial system was installed by the city because it has to protect the property. However, that wasn’t quite good enough,” she said. “Now we will be upgrading to the next stage.”

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