Project Fact Sheet – The Japanese Heritage Shōya House at The Huntington
The Japanese Heritage Shōya House is a restored residential compound from 18th-century rural Japan that opens to the public on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
The historic Japanese Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.
House square footage: 3,000
Compound size: 2 acres
Compound major features:
- House (originally built around 1700; restored with new elements in 2020–23)
- Gatehouse (replica based on original design)
- Agricultural fields
- Kitchen garden
- Inner courtyard with a pond
November 2018: Dismantle Shōya House in Japan
Spring 2019: Restoration in Japan
December 2019: Ship to the United States
August 2020: Groundbreaking
May 19, 2021: Jōtõshiki, a Shinto ceremony held to bless the construction project
April 2022: Completion of structure
Summer 2022: Garden construction underway
October 21, 2023: Public opening
$10.2 million (funded entirely by philanthropic support)
Nicole Cavender, Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens
Robert Hori, Associate Director of Cultural Programs
Thomas Polansky, Vice President for Operations and Facilities
Audrey Ng, Facilities and Security Project Manager
Yoshiaki Nakamura, Kohseki/Nakamura Sotoji Komuten (Kyoto, Japan)
Masao Mike Okamoto, U.S. Architect of Record
Japanese Carpentry Team
Takuhiro Yamada, Hanatoyo Landscape Co. Ltd. (Kyoto, Japan)
Garden Restoration: Hanatoyo
P2S Engineering: MEP Engineer
Civil Engineer: Psomas
Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates
U.S. General Contractor: Snyder Langston
Japanese Contractor: Kohseki
- Adaptive use of an existing structure
- The complex meets the performance objectives of California’s Building Energy Code, Title 24
- Energy-efficient lighting and light control systems
- Water-efficient plumbing systems
- Stormwater retention basin within site landscaping
Architectural History of The Huntington’s Japanese Garden
The building of the Japanese Garden began in 1911 and was completed in 1912. The garden, which is currently 12 acres, was inspired by the widespread Western fascination with Asian culture in the early 1900s. Henry E. Huntington purchased many of the garden’s plants and ornamental fixtures, as well as the Japanese House, from a failed commercial tea garden in Pasadena, located at the northeast corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and California Boulevard. When The Huntington opened to the public in 1928, the Japanese Garden became a major draw for visitors. Features such as the bell tower and bridge were newly built for the garden by Japanese American craftspeople.
By World War II, staffing shortages—including those resulting from the incarceration of Japanese American employees—and the political climate led to the closure of parts of the Japanese Garden, and the Japanese House fell into disrepair. In the 1950s, members of the San Marino League helped support the refurbishment of the buildings and surrounding landscape.
In 1968, The Huntington expanded the Japanese Garden to include a bonsai collection, which now numbers in the hundreds, and a rock garden, the Zen Court. Since 1990, The Huntington has served as the Southern California site for the Golden State Bonsai Federation.
The ceremonial teahouse, called Seifū-an (the Arbor of Pure Breeze), was built in Kyoto in the 1960s and donated to The Huntington by the Pasadena Buddhist Temple. In 2010, the teahouse made a return trip to Japan for restoration, overseen by Kyoto-based architect Yoshiaki Nakamura (whose father built the original structure). It was then shipped back to San Marino and reassembled.
In 2011, a team of architects with backgrounds in historic renovation, horticulturists, landscape architects, engineers, and Japanese craftsmen undertook a yearlong, large-scale restoration of the historic core of the garden. The project included repairs to the central pond system and water infrastructure, along with increasing pathway accessibility and renovating the original faux bois (false wood) ornamental trellises.
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