After watching television coverage of the devastating consequences of recent natural disasters in Japan, I spent some time reflecting on challenges facing the people of Japan — and those of us around the globe who must do our part to help its people.
I headed to the Japanese Friendship Garden in central Phoenix, which features an authentic Japanese stroll garden perfect for quiet reflection. There I learned that Himeji, Japan — home of a castle hailed as a world treasure — is one of Phoenix’s “sister cities.”
During tough — and truly tragic — times, those who feel the strongest need to help are often the people who have a personal connection with those affected. Phoenix has such a connection to Japan, and our country’s strong political alliance with Japan is well known and highly regarded.
As you talk with your family, friends and fellow community members about ways to support the Japanese people in the days, months and years ahead — consider spending some time at Ro Ho En, the Japanese Friendship Garden located at Margaret T. Hance Park.
Here’s a bit of what you’ll see there — followed by news of upcoming events at the garden, and ways you can help the people of Japan rebuild their homes and their lives…
We first experienced the Japanese Friendship Garden during an elementary school field trip that included participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which we began by taking off our shoes and settling into a spirit of quiet observation and profound respect.
I recalled that ceremony, with its beautiful order and tradition, as I watched footage filmed during and after Japan’s largest earthquake. A woman who struggled to replace cans in a supermarket as they fell around her amidst all the trembling. The people who remained calm and reverant rather than resorting to looting or other means of furthering the chaos wrought by nature upon them.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is a wonderful place to introduce your children to Japanese culture. In addition to the tea house and tea garden, it features more than fifty varieties of plants, flowing streams, stone footbridges and lanterns, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond with more than 300 colorful fish.
During my most recent stroll through the garden, just a few other people were there — making it an especially serene and tranquil experience. I hope to return for the “Zen Garden Music & Art Festival” on April 16, when the garden will come alive with all sorts of visual and performance art.
During their season, the Japanese Friendship Garden participates in ArtLink’s “First Fridays” from 4pm to 7pm/dusk — when admission is free. Other times, the admission fee is modest — and school tours/group tours are available.
You’ll learn plenty about the Japanese Friendship Garden, and affiliates such as the Urasenke Foundation in Kyoto, by simply visiting their website — which features its own spectacular slide show with really interesting captions.
Still, a visit to the garden is the best way to get a feel here in Phoenix for all the beauty and wonder that is Japan.
Note: Visit the following websites to discover some of the ways you can support recovery efforts in Japan: www.doctorswithoutborders.org, www.internationalmedicalcorps.org, www.peace-winds.org, www.redcross.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org
Coming up: Movie and theater reviews
Update: Donations for the Phoenix sister city of Himeji, Japan can be made March 18-20 at the Himeji, Japan booth in Sister Cities Village at WorldFEST. Click here to learn more about a fund drive being held by the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission to benefit disaster relief efforts — and to learn more about WorldFEST, which features family-friendly activities related to several of our sister cities throughout the world.