Nestled in the heart of downtown Phoenix lies a serene escape that offers visitors a glimpse into traditional Japanese landscape architecture and culture. The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, also known as RoHoEn, is a symbol of friendship and cultural exchange between the sister cities of Phoenix  and Himeji, Japan. For residents of Optima Sonoran Village®Optima Kierland Apartments® and Optima McDowell Mountain,  the garden offers an ideal destination for relaxation, reflection, and a deeper appreciation of Japanese artistry and horticulture.

A Symbol of Friendship
The idea for the Japanese Friendship Garden began in 1987 as part of the sister city relationship between Phoenix and Himeji. This relationship, established in 1976, aimed to foster mutual understanding and cultural exchange. The garden project officially took shape in 1988, with the garden opening to the public in 1996. Its name, RoHoEn, is derived from three Japanese words: Ro, meaning heron, a bird symbolizing Himeji; Ho, meaning phoenix, symbolizing Phoenix; and En, meaning garden.

The Japanese Friendship Garden spans 3.5 acres and is meticulously designed to reflect traditional Japanese garden aesthetics. The garden was constructed with the expertise of landscape architects from Himeji and features over 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, and a tranquil koi pond. Each element within the garden is carefully placed to create harmony and balance, following the principles of traditional Japanese landscaping.

One of the most striking features of the garden is its 12-foot waterfall, which cascades into a koi pond that is home to over 300 colorful koi fish. The pond, winding pathways, and stone lanterns offer visitors a tranquil setting for meditation and reflection. Additionally, the garden features a tea house, where traditional Japanese tea ceremonies are held, providing an immersive cultural experience for visitors.

Credit: Scotwriter21 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Cultural Events and Activities
Beyond being a place of beauty, the Japanese Friendship Garden serves as a hub for cultural activities and events. Throughout the year, the garden hosts a variety of programs that celebrate Japanese culture, including tea ceremonies, ikebana (flower arranging) classes, calligraphy workshops, and traditional music and dance performances. These events provide a wonderful opportunity for residents of Optima Sonoran Village® and Optima Kierland Apartments® to engage with Japanese traditions and learn from master artists and practitioners.

Koi pond in the Japanese Friendship Garden. Credit: WendyAvilesR – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a testament to the enduring friendship between Phoenix and Himeji and a cultural treasure for the community. It serves as a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Its emphasis on natural beauty and tranquility aligns with Optima®’s own values of creating harmonious living environments that enhance well-being. The garden’s lush landscapes and serene atmosphere offer a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll, a quiet moment of reflection, or a shared experience with friends and family.

The garden is open to the public from October through May, with adjusted hours during the summer months. It is located at 1125 North 3rd Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85003. Visitors can find more information about hours, admission fees, and upcoming events on the garden’s official website.