The historic Shofuso Japanese House — site of the popular annual Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia in Fairmount Park — was vandalized and forced to close for a day, but reopened Friday morning and resumed normal operations, said the top official overseeing the city-owned property.
Kazumi Teune, interim executive director of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, which manages the site, said in a phone interview late Thursday night that she estimated the damage to be “a few thousand dollars,” including to a mural by contemporary artist Hiroshi Senju that is installed on decorative paper sliding doors.
Teune later reported that there was a second incident on Friday involving a theft at the gift shop. More details about the second incident were not immediately available.
Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the incident earlier Friday and called whoever was responsible for the vandalism “a bunch of knuckleheads who don’t have any understanding of the value of anything.”
“We’ll do our best to find these idiots and make sure they go to jail,” the mayor said in an interview with a television reporter — a recording of which Kenney’s office provided to The Inquirer.
Teune attributed an earlier news report about the vandalism causing $2 million in damage to a miscommunication.
As for the possibility that the vandalism may have been an anti-Asian hate crime, Teune said she didn’t know the motivation but expressed skepticism that it was hate-motivated. “We think it’s teenagers, kids,” she said about the possible perpetrator.
The initial incident occurred Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, Teune said.
Nothing was stolen during the first incident, she said.
Teune said her organization was in contact with artist Hiroshi Senju. She said the mural may have to be sent to Japan for repairs.
Philadelphia police were notified about the vandalism late Thursday morning and came to inspect the damage shortly after 5 p.m., Teune said.
Police revisited the property on Friday.
Teune said Shofuso House may need increased security and that could be very costly.