Japanese house and gardens vandalized in Philadelphia

VANDALISM AT JAPANESE CULTURAL SITE — A mural by artist Hiroshi Senju that is valued at just under $2 million is among the items that were damaged June 15 when the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia was vandalized.photo courtesy of Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia was vandalized the evening of June 15, Rob Buscher, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia’s associate director of organizational culture, told the Nichi Bei Weekly.

A mural by artist Hiroshi Senju that is valued at just under $2 million is among the items that were damaged.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Southwest Detectives Division is investigating the case. As of June 21, no arrests have been made, and the police have yet to determine a reason for the vandalism.

“Although we lack evidence to call this a hate incident, given the fact that this is the only physical site in Philadelphia that is identifiably Japanese, we view this as a targeted attack on our community,” Buscher, who is also the president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, said in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei Weekly. Buscher added that the site “has long been neglected by city officials.”

While the society administers the site, the city owns the property and the land it sits on, Buscher said.

Buscher noted that the property’s original murals were previously destroyed in an act of vandalism. The site was vandalized in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“The fear right now, I think among a lot of the JA community in our region is that, you know, although this was pretty limited in scope, the damage, because the former murals were destroyed, we’re kind of thinking that this could happen again. Basically unless the city of Philadelphia sort of steps in to help us secure the site, we’re concerned that it would be easy for people to break in again …”

Staff have stood watch over the property until 8 or 9 p.m. multiple times since it was vandalized, Buscher said. He added that staff is also talking with city leaders — both elected officials and others who work in various agencies — to see if city funding is available to address their security concerns.

Staff have since installed security cameras on site.

On June 17, some “young people” attempted to steal something from the gift shop, but staff caught them, and the would-be thieves returned the items, Buscher said.

Shofuso staff are awaiting an estimate from an art conservator on the cost of repairing the mural, before launching a crowdfunding campaign.

According to the society, Shofuso is “a 17th century-style Japanese house with associated residential gardens that reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia.”

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