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The Japan House

A photo inside the Japan House

The University of West Florida cultivates a strong relationship between the U.S. and Japan through its educational, cultural and business programs at the Japan House. Visitors are welcome to experience the Japan House and its authentic tea room through tours, activities and workshops held regularly. The Japan House is open for non-guided tours Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more about the relationships and history that shaped UWF’s Japan House in the details below.

History of the Japan House

The Japan House began as a shared vision between then UWF President Dr. Morris Marx and Dr. Kunihiko Ukifune to build a center for Japanese studies and culture in Pensacola. With the support of donations from Dr. Ukifune of 10 million yen (appx. $100,000), the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Organization of $200,000, and funds from friends in Pensacola and Japan, the shared vision soon became a reality at UWF. During this time, Dr. Marx also established the Japan House Endowment for continued support and maintenance of the Japan House for years to come. 

With guidance from Dr. Marx’s leadership, the Japan House broke ground in June 2003 and officially opened its doors to the public in June 2004. 

UWF's Japan House hosts members of the Jikei Group

Fun Facts

  • Sister city Hagiwara, Japan, donated carefully selected tatami mats, a red pine post for the tea room, and two 19.5-foot-tall cedar posts. In honor of their support, the Tatami Room was named the “Hagiwara Room.”
  • In 2009, The Japan House Tea Room became one of the most prestigious tea rooms in the U.S. and received its honorary name Fukutokuan (foo-koo-tok-oo-an), meaning sanctum of goodness and virtue. The naming of the tea room was a distinct honor by Urasenke Grand Master Zabosai Sen Soshitsu XVI. 
  • UWF is the only institution in the Florida State University System with an authentic tea room. 
  • The Fukutokuan Tea Room is one of only two authentic tea rooms in the state of Florida. The other is located in the Morikami Museum in Delray.

UWF’s Union with the Sister City Gero, Japan

Students from the Sister City Gero, Japan
Students from the Sister City Gero, Japan

The relationship between UWF and Pensacola’s Japanese Sister City was first established in 1988. Middle school students and teachers from Hagiwara, Japan, began visiting Pensacola and staying with local host families in 1994 as part of a five-year project with UWF. The project was immensely successful, and Hagiwara officially became Pensacola's sister city on March 27, 1998, with the signing of the Sister City Agreement. 

In April 2004, Hagiwara, along with four towns and a local village, united together to establish a new city, Gero, Japan. With this union, the new city of Gero became the sister city to Pensacola on August 17, 2005.

Since 1994, students from UWF, Brown Barge Middle School and people from the Pensacola community have also stayed in Hagiwara and Gero each year. The city of Gero has continued to support Pensacola for decades, including contributions to relief funds following Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and flooding in 2005. This lasting friendship with Gero continues to be carried by our children and grandchildren as we celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2024.