Looking for a place to relax and de-stress? Then the Japanese Friendship Garden is the perfect place for you.
As you stroll down the path of this 3.5-acre Japanese garden, you’ll see a 12-foot waterfall, a koi pond with more than 300 colorful and friendly koi fish that you can feed, flowing streams, a stepping stone path, a tea house and more than 50 varieties of plants — including two types of bamboo. Once you’re inside this beautiful garden, it’s hard to believe you’re still in the center of Phoenix’s bustling downtown.
My trip to the Japanese Friendship Garden took place in January on First Friday; the entrance fee is free on the first Friday of every month. However, on any other day the entrance fee is $5 for adults and $4 for students, military, seniors and children over 6 years old; children under 6 years are admitted free of charge.
Once there, the atmosphere made me forget all my worries. The scenery of the sunset against the picturesque tree tops and the sound of the cascading waterfall transported me to another world. The garden path took about 15 minutes to complete, unless you’re like me and stop to “ooh” and “aah” at every flower, stone and tree, then it will probably take you half an hour.
Feeding the koi fish was an experience like no other. The fish were very amicable and would swim up to the surface with open mouths, waiting to be fed. They were certainly not afraid of people; instead, they greeted them excitedly.
In addition to taking a stroll along the garden’s path, you can also take part of the Japanese Friendship Garden’s public and private tea ceremonies. Public tea ceremonies take place the second Saturday of the month at $22 per person, admission included. Private tea ceremonies require a minimum of 10 guests, and the cost is $25 per person, which includes admission and a guided tour. Reservations are required for both public and private tea ceremonies.
The Japanese Garden took several years to complete. More than 50 landscape architects from Himeji, Japan designed the Japanese Friendship Garden. The plants were brought from Himeji, a Phoenix sister city, while many of the rocks in the garden were found locally.
Although all plants species were chosen by designers to withstand the desert environment, the garden closes from May to October, during the hottest months of the year, to protect the plants.
The garden is not only a beautiful place, but it is also one that expresses the cultural acceptance and shared view of Himeji and Phoenix. This makes the Japanese name for the garden — Ro Ho En — an appropriate one. Ro Ho En is a combination of three words: Ro means Heron; Ho means Phoenix, the mythical bird; and En means garden.
I left Ro Ho En feeling refreshed and tranquil, and I find myself wanting to go back whenever I need a break from everyday life.