Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Tucked away in a 3+ acre area of Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix is Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.

A caretaker told me it's one of the city's best kept secrets.

It's a serene area in the heart of a mega-city.

One can lose their cares and worries as the sidewalks take you in a winding fashion around a large koi pond, over bridges, through small forests, listening to only the sound of rushing water and birds singing.

The mini-park . . for that's what it is . . was built over a period of years as a joint project between leaders from Phoenix and Himeji, Japan . . which are sister cities.

Architects and builders from Himeji came to the desert clime of Phoenix to design and build the garden.

It took ten years as the joint delegations tested the soil, inspected foliage and found huge boulders to bring to the site.

The garden was opened in 2002.

And in case my duck-hunting pal from North Dakota is wondering . . yes there are many resident ducks here.

But he might want to avoid the ferocious Shachi, a mythical fish with the face of a tiger.

The monuments and sculptures were all donated by the city of Himeji.

Some are less fearsome than Shachi.

I spotted what I took to be a cormorant, sunning himself on a rock.

And the koi pond, which was originally stocked with the fish from Japan, is now home to many new generations.

When we lived in Mexico, Gentle Readers, we had a ficus plant . . a slender, spindly thing that grew from a pot.

This is what happens when you plant one in the ground in Phoenix where the climate allows it to grow year-round.

Now we come to the sad part of the story.

Both of the caretakers I met were quietly grieving about what has risen just adjacent to the garden to the south.

A huge multi-story condominium complex has been erected within feet of the border of the garden.

It's height eliminates the southern sun that used to shine down most of the day.

One day recently when there was a rare cold snap in Phoenix, the sprinklers had been going as usual and ICE formed on the walkways and grounds.

The caretakers, who love this calm space in an increasingly driven megalopolis, are saddened.

And so was I.

Ro Ho En. 

Ro is the Japanese word for heron, a bird symbol of Himeji.

Ho is the Japanese name for the mythical Phoenix bird, which rose from the ashes.

En is the Japanese word for Garden.

Visit if you are from Phoenix or visiting Phoenix.

It is worth your time.

It will calm you.


quilteddogs said...

OMG! I go by three every day on my way to work. I seriously need to stop by there. Thanks for sharing.

L Lewis said...

Calm is what I need if I'm ever in PHX. I've been to the Denver Botanical Garden and same thing - ringed by high rises. I saw a documentary about similar oasis gardens throughout Japan. Something to refresh their worker bees who work 10-12 hour days as a norm.

Jager said...

The condo developers probably use the garden as a selling point. Asshats.

Sharon Anck said...

Great post about a beautiful place that few people know about. I was saddened too by that huge condo building going up but I hadn't really thought about the blockage of the sun. That is a real problem on many levels. I haven't been for several weeks. I need to stop in and see what is blooming. It should be time for spring blooms.

Tom Cochrun said...

Lovely and informative post. That is a terrific shot of the koi. It looked as though he/she was posing for you.
Great line you wrote about loosing cares and worries. We can hope the high rise dwellers will find the meditative garden a place of joy and peace.

Stephen Hayes said...

Love the pictures. Here in Portland we have a magnificent Japanese garden because our climate is similar to Japan's, but your garden is an even greater achievement(I think) because you have much warmer weather.

Anonymous said...

If I lived in the area I would visit, but not on my vacation list.


The Bug said...

What a lovely space!

Zhoen said...

I wonder what Phoenix put in Hemiji?

Val said...

Serenity now.

Tom said...

Although Sydney (Australia) has both a Japanese and a Chinese friendship garden, your photographs remind me of the latter.