SAN MARINO — The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced Feb. 12 that it is adding to its renowned Japanese Garden a 320-year-old house from Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture.
The well-preserved structure is an exquisite example of a working magistrate’s residence that once served as the center of village life and home to generations of the same family. The project is expected to take at least two years to complete.
“We are deeply indebted to Yokho and Akira Yokoi, who are set on preserving this important aspect of Japanese cultural heritage through Huntington programming,” said Karen R. Lawrence, Huntington president. “In giving their historic family home to The Huntington, the Yokois are providing us with the opportunity to let Huntington visitors experience a garden and home as they were traditionally occupied throughout Japan.”
The Yokoi family offered their historic home to The Huntington in 2016. Through subsequent visits to the structure in Marugame and study sessions with architectural experts, a strategy for moving the house and related outbuildings to The Huntington evolved.
“We have gotten the complete go-ahead from officials in Marugame and the Kagawa Prefecture, supporting the decision to relocate structural and landscape elements, as the house has been unoccupied for a number of years and the surrounding area has become urbanized,” said James Folsom, Telleen/Jorgensen director of the Botanical Gardens.
Dismantling and restoration in Japan will take about a year. Also coming to The Huntington are two smaller structures, known as kura, or “treasure houses,” that once served as storage facilities for the village’s rice and family treasures; other features to come include stones, lanterns, and a bridge.
Once at The Huntington, the house and landscape will be reconstructed. The completed compound will include a new gatehouse, based on the original, as well as a landscape that closely resembles the original garden.
More than 300 years ago, the Yokoi family was installed as magistrates of a small farming district of Marugame. Their residence functioned as the local town hall and village square, Folsom said. The magistrates were responsible for preserving each year’s seed crop and organizing and managing the community, as well as celebrating life events. The village and family history are recorded in thousands of documents that are now on deposit in the local museum in Kagawa.
The house remains complete and intact, said Folsom. “It represents real-life circumstances, an authentically constructed Japanese home with a compact inner garden. The project will bring living history to Southern California. There is nothing quite like this in any public garden in North America.”
“This is an extraordinary example of the integration of garden, home, and traditional Japanese lifestyle,” said Robert Hori, cultural curator and program director for the Botanical Gardens. “Visitors will have the opportunity to walk through, enter rooms, handle objects, take a seat on the tatami mats, and ponder the garden outside.”
While details remain to be worked out, the preliminary hope is to reinstall and open the house at The Huntington in the fall of 2020 or early 2021.
The historic Japanese Garden at The Huntington comprises several iconic structures and elements, including a moon bridge, a Zen garden and bonsai court, and a house, among other features. But that house, constructed in Japan and shipped to California in 1904, was built for a commercial tea garden in Pasadena and was never meant to be occupied or to serve as a residence. The Huntington’s founder, Henry E. Huntington, purchased the building from then-owner George Marsh in 1911 and moved it, along with other features, to its current location.
“The Huntington’s Japanese Garden represents a Western interpretation of a Japanese residence and stroll garden,” said Folsom. “This magistrate’s house, on the other hand, is altogether different and extremely exciting. It provides us with an opportunity to let visitors walk through a real, historic residence and immerse themselves in the life, culture, landscape traditions, and other elements of Japanese heritage from the late 17th century onward.”
The compound will be built slightly to the north and west of the current Japanese house, between the Japanese and Chinese gardens. The total cost of the project is about $9 million, Folsom said, with more than three-quarters of the amount having been secured.
For more information on The Huntington, which is located at 1151 Oxford Rd. in San Marino, call (626) 405-2100 or visit www.huntington.org.