Shofuen opened in a quiet residential area of Hirao in July 2007 to become one of Fukuoka’s three urban gardens. Shofuen has tea rooms and a Japanese garden, and it is built on the site of Shofuso, the residence of renowned Fukuoka Tamaya department store founder and Kyushu pottery collector Zenpachi Tanakamaru.
The garden incorporates the Shofuan and Azumaya tea rooms that the tea-loving Tanakamaru had built by the famous tea hut artisan, Kaichiro Usui. Shofuan is a 4.5 mat room with a half-mat floor and four-mat seating area. It employs the same layout as the grave of the great tea master Sen-no-Rikyu located in the Jukoin Temple in the Daitokuji compound in Kyoto—leaving you with a feeling of how much Tanakamaru loved tea. Once you walk through the main gate there is a set of stone stairs leading up to the garden, and there is also an elevator on the left that allows for barrier-free access.
The reception window is located in the long east-to-west building which is also home to a new tea room. Two specially built rooms can be booked (fee required) for tea ceremony. Nearly every month Japanese cultural events are held in these rooms or in Shofuen, the centerpiece of the garden. If that sounds too deep for you, casual visitors to the garden are encouraged to try a simple bowl of matcha (fine green tea and traditional sweets, ¥300) and the free guided service of the grounds. Shofuen is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and a chance to enjoy two of Japan’s delights, green tea and artistic gardens.
• 3-28 Hirao, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
• Tel.: 092-524-8264
• Closed: Tue. (or Wed. if Tue. is a national holiday)
• Admission: ¥100 for adults, ¥50 for children
• Nearest Bus Stop: Nishitetsu Bus, Kyokai-mae (Josui-dori), 8 min walk.
• Access: Nishitetsu #56 & 58 from Tenjin or Hakata (Hibaru or Kashiwara bound)
Hirao Sanso stands in the corner of a cozy little park about five minutes’ walk from Shofuen. The building is a 1952 recreation of Botoni Nomura’s late- Edo Era thatched-roof tea hut. The hut is well known as the 1864 hiding place of Shinsaku Takasugi, a samurai loyal to the Emperor. With its year-round greenery, the park is one of the city’s lesser- known or frequented spots to relax. In the plum blossom season the area is especially beautiful!
Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn125, May 2009)