BEST ZEN EXPERIENCE (2003)
Japanese Friendship Garden
Leave it to the Japanese to create a serene oasis right in the middle of a desert metropolis. Situated at the south end of the Margaret T. Hance Park, this three-and-a-half-acre refuge is the perfect place for busy urbanites to slow down and contemplate simple beauties: a 12-foot waterfall, a rocky stream that flows into a koi-filled pond, a shore of carefully selected rocks from Arizona quarries, and stone lanterns and sculptures. (Landscape architects from Himeji, Japan, Phoenix's sister city, incorporated native desert plants into the traditional design to help the garden withstand the extreme climate.) Even the garden's official name, Ro Ho En, inspires a poetic mindset. Ro stands for "heron," Himeji's symbolic bird, which references the town's spectacular White Heron Castle; Ho is Japanese for our own mythical winged creature; and En means "garden." There's also an on-site traditional teahouse, perfect for viewing the lovingly manicured scenery.