Visitors to the Shoseian Japanese Tea House and Friendship Garden in Brand Park will notice a few major changes after a cooperative project by city officials and members of the local Japanese Consulate helped install new fencing, landscaping and a redesigned waterfall at the site.
Shoseian, built in 1974 as a traditional Japanese tea house, now has its distinct wooden townhouse enclosed by handmade fencing, bonsai-style trees, a new bamboo covered spigot and a reconstructed waterfall. Also, the back entrance has been converted to be the main entrance.
The landmark structure, its Japanese-style garden and Koi pond have been a cultural outreach center for the community, often the location for events such as the annual Cherry Blossom Festival and tea ceremonies as well as haiku and martial-arts workshops.
Koko Panossian, deputy director with the city's Community Services and Parks Department, said the project's goal was to depict a culturally accurate setting.
"Our crew members, as well as our colleagues from Japan, [became] very close throughout the process," Panossian said. "Our staff learned a lot … even though initially a bit of a cultural and language barrier came into play, but by the sixth day it seemed like we were speaking the same language."
According to a staff report, the renovation is the result of a request made in May by the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles to the city of Glendale. Months later, a delegation of Japanese officials that included gardening experts and a tea house specialist visited Brand Park to draft a preliminary restoration design.
Eight gardeners from the Japanese Federation of Landscape Gardeners came to Glendale in January and worked side by side for a week with crew members from the city's Community Services and Parks Department to complete the $25,000 project.
The value of the Japanese delegations' in-kind donation — lodging, travel, subcontractors and plants — was about $57,000, according to a staff report.
Friends of Shoseian, the volunteer local nonprofit group that oversees some of the activities at the tea house, also helped in planning and coordinating the project.
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, 11 city staff members responsible for the renovations were awarded commendations by Mayor Vartan Gharpetian, who said they worked very hard to make the landmark a better place.
"The tea house is a great place for people to visit … Every one of our council members has attended a tea ceremony there at one time," Gharpetian said. "It's very relaxing."
Shoseian is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with special events held throughout the year.
For more information, visit shoseianteahouse.com.