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Shoseian Japanese Tea House renovated in joint city project

Shoseian Japanese Tea House renovated in joint city project
The Brand Park Japanese Tea Garden was recently renovated with the help of professionals from Japan, seen in Glendale on Friday. The renovation was done in one week in January and included a much larger waterfall and new trees, grass and rocks all around the area. (Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

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.

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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.

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"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.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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