Coordinates: Japan House is a learning facility founded in 1976 by Shozo Sato. It is part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The facility includes three tea rooms, or Chashitsu, a tea garden (Roji) and Japanese rock garden. It currently conducts classes in Japanese tea ceremony, Japanese Aesthetics and Ikebana for university students and members of the community. An annual event at the house welcomes international students. In 2019 an expansion effort was under way.
Japanese artist Shozo Sato arrived at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as an artist-in-residence in 1964, and began teaching tea ceremony. He struggled to find the right setting for the classes, sometimes even teaching them from his own home. Eventually, after several years, Morton Weir, then Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, now Chancellor Emeritus, heard of the rising popularity of these tea ceremonies. He arranged for Professor Sato to be able to use an old Victorian house on campus, at Lincoln Avenue and California (now the site of the Alice B. Campbell Alumni Center).
In the early 1990s Professor Sato retired, leaving the community, and the old Victorian was torn down for redevelopment. Professor Kimiko Gunji, a longtime teaching assistant of Professor Sato, approached her tea school in Japan, the Urasenke Foundation of Tea, and they agreed to donate two tearooms for a new Japan House. With that commitment in hand, Professor Gunji and then Associate Provost Roger Martin moved ahead, receiving commitments for $100,000 from the Japan Illini Club, the Commemorative Association for the Japan World Exposition and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
The University had selected a site within the relatively new Arboretum for Japan House. Architect Jack Baker and the firm of Isaksen Glerum Architects PC designed the structure and construction began. Japanese master carpenter, Seiji Suzuki, then visited and installed three Japanese tearooms into the empty building. The new Japan House was dedicated on June 18, 1998.
Over the years, Japan House has been the site of many programs, events and visits, ranging from tea ceremonies, presentations and performances of traditional Japanese culture. Japan House has also worked with other units on campus, working to bring Japanese exhibitions and performances to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Spurlock Museum, and Krannert Art Museum.
In 2012 Professor Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud became the third director of Japan House, after the retirement of her mother, Kimiko Gunji. Not long afterwards, Professor Shozo Sato returned to the Champaign-Urbana community.
Japan House is open to the public during events such as tea ceremony, Spring and Fall Open Houses with visiting artists, tea ceremonies and garden tours, and the annual Matsuri Japanese festival held in August. Workshops in various Japanese arts such as cooking, calligraphy, yukata dressing, etc.
ARTD 209: Chado, the Way of Tea
ARTD 299: Japanese Aesthetics
ART299: Japan House Internship
Chado Urasenke Tankokai Urbana-Champaign Association
Illinois Prairie Chapter of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of America
The Japan House gardens were designed and created by James Bier. Mr. Bier continues to maintain the gardens along with a group of volunteers. The gardens are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk, although the walled tea garden is closed in icy weather.