Things Are Clearing Up at The Japanese Friendship Garden

If you've been to the Ro Ho En Japanese Friendship Garden lately you may have noticed how green it is. No, we're not talking about the vegetation. We're referring to the water in the koi pond.

Japanese gardens, even those in Japan, are man-made spaces dependent on delicate water filtration systems to thrive. About a year ago, Japanese Friendship Garden Director Diana Larowe told New Times, the filtration system at Ro Ho En began suffering mechanical failure. The result is an increase in algae growth in the koi pond and a new fluorescent green look.

"We are a little concerned that the algae doesn't get too dark," Larowe said. "The koi don't mind. In fact, they'd like it as dark as possible."

Should the algae growth continue unchecked there is a chance it could deplete the oxygen in the pond and suffocate the fish. And these aren't just any fish; some of the koi at Ro Ho En are worth about $4000 according to Larowe.

About six years ago, the pond held between 15-17 koi valued at no more than $50, Larowe said. But in the last three years, exotic koi donated by local entrepreneur and koi enthusiast Dr. Blischoss have helped create the variety seen at the garden today.

Luckily for the entire koi population at Ro Ho En, repairs on the computer and filtration systems have been completed and the water is already starting to clear up without detriment to the garden.

Every year the Japanese Friendship Garden holds events and weddings, as well as tea ceremonies. Larowe said some guests expressed concern, but no one's cancelled.

"I think that they [the guests] felt that even with a little more green in the water they weren't going to lose sleep over it," Larowe said. "They have been understanding and they know that it's not a simple fix."

Not only is it a complicated fix once things get of hand, but just maintaining these ponds can be quite a chore. Larowe recently returned from a conference on Japanese gardens outside of Japan where her fellow directors found it astounding that the Phoenix climate is capable of hosting a Japanese garden at all.

"With a water system that is constant changing, it's reactive to its environment," Larowe said. As a result, the pond must be monitored daily to be sure that the water is kept balanced between being healthy for the fish and clear enough for visitors to appreciate them.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and located at 1125 N 3rd Avenue in Phoenix.

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Jonathan McNamara