The Huntington will offer visitors an opportunity to see a restored residential compound from 18th-century rural Japan.
By News Desk
Opening Oct. 21, 2023, the Japanese Heritage Shōya House, a 3,000-square-foot residence built around 1700, formerly served as the center of village life in Marugame, Japan. The compound has been reconstructed on a two-acre site, which includes a newly constructed gatehouse and courtyard based on the original structures, as well as a small garden with a pond, an irrigation canal, agricultural plots, and other landscape elements that closely resemble the compound’s original setting. Visitors will be able to walk through a portion of the house and see how inhabitants lived their daily lives within the thoughtfully designed and meticulously crafted 320-year-old structure.
Los Angeles residents Yohko and Akira Yokoi offered their historic family home to The Huntington in 2016. Huntington representatives made numerous visits to the structure in Marugame and participated in study sessions with architects in Japan before developing a strategy for disassembling the house and reconstructing it at The Huntington.
Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence said:
The new Japanese Heritage Shōya House will offer a glimpse into rural Japanese life some 300 years ago, and provide insights into that culture and its sustainability practices. We are very grateful to the Yokoi family for giving The Huntington the opportunity to tell this important story as an immersive experience for visitors.”
The historic house was the residence for successive generations of the Yokoi family, who served as the shōya, or village leaders, of a small farming community near Marugame, a city in Kagawa prefecture, Japan. Chosen by the feudal lord, a shōya acted as an intermediary between the government and the farmers. His duties included storing the village’s rice yield, collecting taxes, and maintaining census records, as well as settling disputes and enforcing the law. He also ensured that the lands remained productive by preserving seeds and organizing the planting and harvesting. The residence functioned as the local town hall and village square.
Sustainability is a major theme of the interpretive scheme. Robert Hori, the gardens cultural curator and programs director at The Huntington, said:
We aim to present a working model of Edo period permaculture and regenerative agriculture. It represents real-life circumstances. An authentically constructed Japanese house using natural materials, combined with careful attention to agricultural practices, will demonstrate how a community became self-sufficient. We will show how emphasis was placed on reducing waste and repairing items so they could be reused or repurposed.
Visitors will see how this 18th-century Japanese village maintained a symbiotic relationship between humans and the surrounding landscape.”
The compound occupies a recently developed area along the north end of The Huntington’s historic Japanese Garden. While the garden has featured an iconic Japanese House for the last 100 years, this new structure and surrounding elements will provide visitors with a fully immersive experience, allowing them to walk through it and learn about 18th-century rural Japanese life.
The Shōya House will be open to visitors on October 21, 2023, from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
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