Learn how to maintain & foster
RoHoEn as a volunteer!
Our Mission & Vision
The mission of the Japanese Friendship Garden, Inc. is to maintain a beautiful, serene Japanese garden in the heart of Phoenix and provide educational and artistic programs and events that continue to deepen our relationships and celebrate the rich history and culture of Japan.
To provide a place of beauty and tranquility as an escape from the everyday pressures of life, for meditation and relaxation and to enrich and restore the body, mind and spirit.
To encourage the citizens of Phoenix, Himeji, and people from around the world to enjoy the experience of an authentic Japanese stroll garden.
To promote the education, understanding, and appreciation of the Japanese culture and its rich history and traditions.
To foster a lasting friendship between the citizens and governments of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji.
To facilitate a positive public/private partnership with the cities of Phoenix and Himeji for the promotion, operation, and maintenance of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.
To recognize the generous contributions of time, money, and gifts from the citizens and governments of Phoenix and Himeji, especially the architects and contractors of Himeji.
The Japanese Friendship Garden, named RoHoEn 鷺鳳園 in Japanese, is a joint project of the City of Phoenix and our Sister City Himeji, Japan. Himeji Mayor, Matsuji Totani proposed the garden in 1987 to cement the bonds of friendship between Japan and the United States and particularly between the peoples of Himeji and Phoenix.
The Himeji Gardening and Construction Contractors Association was formed for the specific purpose of designing and constructing the Garden. In the ensuing years, the group has made dozens of visits to select the site, investigate soil and climactic conditions, determine suitable plantings, select rock, and oversee construction details.
The teahouse and surrounding tea garden were completed in November 1996, the 20th anniversary of our Sister City relationship. The project features a stroll garden, tea garden, a stone garden, and a courtyard garden. All of the decorative features that you see in the garden and the hundreds of thousands of hours required to design and guide its construction are gifts from the City of Himeji and its citizens.
The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, RoHoEn is an authentic 3.5 acre Japanese Stroll Garden with a tea garden and a tea house. This tranquil and beautiful setting features more than 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, stone foot bridges, lanterns and more than 50 varieties of plants. As you stroll the path, you will enjoy flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall, and a Koi pond with over 300 colorful Koi fish.
Our Name - RoHoEn 鷺鳳園
The devoted and friendly relationship between the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan is reflected in the name chosen by its creators.
鷺 RO Japanese word for Heron
- the symbol of Himeji city.
鳳 HO Japanese word for Phoenix
- the symbol of Phoenix city.
園 EN Japanese word for Garden.
Our Sister City - Himeji
Himeji became a Phoenix Sister City in November 1976 and is one of nine Sister Cities around the globe. Phoenix and Himeji participate in business, governmental, cultural and educational exchanges that promote international goodwill and understanding. The Garden is the shared cultural vision of the cities of Phoenix and Himeji.
Our Design - Hide & Reveal
RoHoEn's stroll garden was designed by Mr. Nozomu Okita in the traditional miegakure (見え隠れ) style. Miegakure or hide-and-reveal design, is prevalent in Japanese stroll gardens where the entirety of the garden is never visible at once. Instead the viewer is led to uncover intentionally hidden views of the landscape while strolling along its curved paths.
Our Board- A Non-profit Organization
The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization governed by a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is an integral part of the organization - performing maintenance, funding, and program development of the Garden.
Our Volunteers- Our Community
The Garden operates in a large part through the support of our community. From maintaining all 3 acres of the land to greeting and engaging with guests during our operating hours, volunteers play many rewarding and important roles at RoHoEn. Donors and members often enjoy volunteering as well.
Our Volunteer Mission Statement
& Code of Conduct
Volunteer Mission Statement:
Our Volunteers support JFG's mission by protecting the garden elements along our paths and promoting an authentic and informed understanding of Japanese gardens and culture. Volunteers do this through caring for the Garden physically, administratively and relationally by helping our guests explore the Garden, maintaining its pristine shapes and textures, welcoming, engaging and responding to our guest's curiosity and helping ensure that they leave having had an authentic and tranquil experience.
Volunteer Code of Conduct
JFG volunteers make decisions that affect our reputation every shift they spend in the Garden. We are grateful and honored that our volunteers so wonderfully improve and enhance that reputation. Because the individual actions of our volunteers at the Garden shape how our guests view Japan, Japanese culture, our sister city, and JFG, it is so important that we each take responsibility for the mission of the Japanese Friendship Garden and act with Integrity, objectivity, confidentiality and generally professional behavior while in service at JFG.
"JFG volunteers make decisions that affect our reputation every shift they spend in the Garden. We are grateful and honored that our volunteers so wonderfully improve and enhance that reputation."
Special Event Volunteers
Tea Tour Docents
As a non-profit, the Japanese Friendship Garden honored to be fueled and supported by our dedicated volunteer team. Being an Ambassador is just one of the ways you can support the Garden while joining a community of people with similar interests.
This is a list of volunteer roles available at the Garden below. Many volunteers enjoy holding a few different roles with us. Contact the volunteer coordinator if you are interested in trying others out yourself!
Special Event Volunteers
Tea Tour Docents
Our Volunteer Benefits
JFG provides many benefits for our volunteers. Aside from the obvious benefits you will receive from simply spending time in the serene environment of the Garden, below are other ways JFG is dedicated to giving back to our greatly appreciated volunteer community.
Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event
Join us for our annual volunteer appreciation event where we show you our gratitude for your hours and years as well as special projects.
JFG Volunteer merchandise such as shirts, pins, or stickers, will be given out whenever available.
Gift Shop Discount
Get a 10% discount on gift shop food, beverage and goods during your shift at the Garden. The gift shop staff will verify that you are either signed in for your shift or on the schedule for that day in order to give you the discount.
Receive awards for the highest hours in each role as well as longevity awards for number of years you have volunteered with us.
Volunteer Snack Bar
During events, volunteers will be provided with a volunteer designated rest area and snack bar with fresh fruit, snacks, drinks, etc.
Our Volunteer Enrichment Program
There is a level system in traditional Japanese culture based on the Three Friends of Winter", the plum, bamboo and pine. In this three-tier ranking system the pine (matsu, 松) is the highest, followed by bamboo (take, 竹) and plum (ume, 梅). A pine tree's roots secure it to the sides of ragged rock and its needles remain vibrantly green even in the coldest of winters, bamboo also maintains its color through winter and grows incredibly tall, flexing without breaking, plums endure long winters, pushing out the very first symbol of spring as they bloom even in the snow. These three “Friends of Winter” essentially provide an allegory for weathering hard times through their various attributes. In Japanese this motif is called the Shōchikubai (松竹梅) and is used in everything from art, song, celebratory gifts, New Years decorations and Ikebana arrangements.
Using this beloved trio here at RoHoEn, there are three levels iin our Enrichment program.
Ume (Plum) - Level 1
Take (Bamboo) - Level 2
Matsu (Pine) - Level 3
How To Advance In Levels
Volunteers move up in level when they have taken enrichment courses and spent a certain number of hours volunteering with us.
Our Enrichment system is a combination of in-person workshops and online content that can further educate you on various subjects related to your volunteer role. You can receive in-depth training on Japanese culture, garden designs and techniques, history and myths as well as many intriguing traditional Japanese arts.
- Plum 梅
Level 1 Volunteer
Just like the plum is the first tree to blossom, being a new volunteer your knowledge and skills are just beginning to bud with plenty of energy for new opportunities and exploration at the Garden.
- Bamboo 竹
Level 2 Volunteer
Just like bamboo, you have shot up and grown straight and tall into your role, gaining deeper knowledge and perspectives to help yourself and others understand and appreciate the Garden more fully.
- Pine 松
Level 3 Volunteer
Just like a pine, your roots have dug deep and made you a symbol of proven longevity and steadfastness in the pursuit of training and investment here at RoHoEn. Your cool, green needles have never faded to brown but instead remained vibrant throughout your time at the Garden.
Our Volunteer Schedule & Hours
VicNet is our volunteer scheduling and sign up portal which you can use at the end of this training.
Volunteers must use their email address to sign in. You will be prompted to create a password unique to you.
In the portal, your schedule will be visible under the "My Schedule" tab.
You can also view open shifts under the "My Schedule" tab. Please click on an orange "Help Wanted" icon on the schedule to see our open shifts.
Sign up for that shift by clicking the "Schedule Me" button.
VicTouch is our volunteer kiosk at the Garden.
You will use our volunteer iPad to log your hours by signing in and out at the beginning and end of each shift.
Please use your email and the pin that was assigned to you to sign in when you start your shift and to sign out at the end of your shift.
You can also sign up for open shifts and view your schedule from the kiosk after or before your shift.
Our Volunteer Policies & Procedures
The Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix strives to operate in an ethical manner, committed to values such as honesty, integrity, and trust. Our volunteer policies and code of conduct ensure that JFG's values are shared and upheld by all members of our organization. This document is designed to acquaint volunteers with information about the policies and procedures involved with volunteering at JFG. It is not all-inclusive but rather, is intended to provide volunteers with a summary of JFG’s guidelines.
Please click below to read our volunteer policies, procedures and code of conduct.
Check the Acknowledgement box after reading and submit. If there is anything you do not understand or if you require further clarification, please contact your volunteer supervisor, we would love help.
Your Role as a Gardening Volunteer
The primary role of our Gardening Volunteers is to maintain and foster RoHoEn. Japanese Gardens are a very specific type of garden and require many special skills. However, most of our gardening volunteers start with very little experience and grow to learn many of the unique aesthetics and principles that guide Japanese garden design and maintenance as they spend time in our community.
Gardening Volunteers maintain and grow the Garden using authentic Japanese tools and techniques to ensure it stays refined and polished. At first you will perform basic garden care such as managing weed control and leaf raking. As you train under our Niwashi (Garden Curator), you may be asked to work on more advanced projects such as building bamboo fences, planting and nurturing new trees, flowers, and various plants, working with basic light machinery such as electric trimmers and various traditional Japanese hand tools for practicing Japanese pruning techniques.
In the sections below you will be introduced to the basics of Japanese garden design and the tools you will be working wtih when you volunteer with us.
"Japanese gardens (日本庭園, nihon teien) are traditional gardens whose designs are accompanied by Japanese aesthetics and philosophical ideas, avoid artificial ornamentation, and highlight the natural landscape. Plants and worn, aged materials are generally used by Japanese garden designers to suggest an ancient and faraway natural landscape, and to express the fragility of existence as well as time's unstoppable advance."- Source
West and East Compared
Looking at the differences between Japanese and Western style gardens will help you to understand some distinctive characteristics between the two.
Seiyō Teien or Western-style gardens often focus on symmetry and the organization of geometric patterns. They use a wide variation of colors and plants. The point is not to make nature look exactly like it would in nature. Instead it is to manipulate and manicure nature into forms that please the eye and often focus the viewer's attention on the skills of the gardener/designer in creating such a beautiful space in nature.
Nihon Teien or Japanese-style gardens on the other hand, though also highly manipulated, seek to give the illusion that they are beautiful spots of unspoiled nature. They attempt to create a kind of ideal nature, where the plant's natural shapes and textures are enhanced and highlighted rather than reorganized or molded into something new. They find beauty in asymmetry with the goal of expressing the beauty in imperfection or wabisabi, often focusing the viewer's attention on the landscape while seeking to downplay the gardener/designer's influence.
"Gardening Volunteers help maintain the Garden using authentic Japanese tools and techniques to ensure it stays refined and polished."
Chisen Kaiyu-Shiki Teien - 回遊式庭園:
When you are talking about Japanese gardens you can often categorize them into one of four different types:
Rock Gardens (Karesansui)
Courtyard Gardens (Tsubo-Niwa)
Tea Gardens (Chaniwa, with Roji pathways)
RoHoEn is a type of stroll garden called a Chisen Kaiyu-Shiki Teien - 回遊式庭園. Chisen means pond, technically coming from a spring, and Kaiyu-Shiki Teien means stroll garden, so together they refer to a Japanese stroll garden with a large pond in the center.
We also have a tea house which includes a tea garden or Chaniwa - 茶庭.
Miegakure - 見え隠れ:
RoHoEn's stroll garden was designed by Mr. Nozomu Okita in the traditional miegakure - 見え隠れ style. Miegakure or hide-and-reveal design, is prevalent in Japanese stroll gardens where the entirety of the garden is never visible at once. Instead the viewer is led to uncover intentionally hidden views of the landscape while strolling along it's curved paths. With each turn of the winding path there is a new scene of beauty to appreciate. The point is not to appreciate it from one main viewing point, but rather to experience it little by little from a multitude of perspectives as you journey through the garden.
RoHoEn's Garden Elements
Waterfalls and ponds
Stone lanterns and water basins
Bamboo fences and gates
Pines and shaped shrubs
Rocks and bridges
At RoHoEn you can observe each one of these elements and learn more about how to maintain and nurture their roles in the overall garden design as you volunteer with us.
If you are interested in learning in depth information about Japanese gardening, you can take one of our volunteer Enrichment courses. Please ask your volunteer coordinator to learn more!
Techniques & Tools
Gardening volunteers often start out doing the basics with the goal of experience and practice that leads to doing the basics exceptionally well. They enjoy starting out with the two important ways we refine our Garden:
Raking & sweeping
Weeding the grounds
The tools you use to do this will be quite different from the usual Western garden tools, however they are easy to get the hang of and you will find you come to love working with them due to their multi functionality and excellent design.
“Japanese gardens are probably the most highly refined and completely developed garden conceptions our world culture has known. They are perfectly suited as spaces for withdrawal, repose and as places where one seeks order in a disorderly world”
ねじり鎌 - Nejiri Kama: Hoe
You will use your kama a lot in the Garden! This lightweight, strong garden hoe with a sharpened steel blade is well-suited for weeding and slicing. You can cut grass roots with the sharp edge. Also, it is easy to pick up weeds that have been cut. The joint is at an angle, designed to reduce the strain on the wrist and make your work smoother.
木バサミ - Ki Basami: Hand Snips
Usage: detailed pruning, pine pruning & kurapia trimming
Also called 植木バサミ Ueki-Basami, the these hands snips are ancient and a Japanese pruner's main tool - one of the most recognizable symbols of a Niwashi (Japanese gardener) in the Garden.
The handles of these snips have a large, round shape, designed so that when a branch is cut, other branches are not pinched or damaged. Unlike some other pruning tools, these hand snips have no spring so the gardener's hands do not get tired even when used for a long time. Use the tip of the blade to cut a thin branch and for thicker branches, sandwich it at the base of the blade to cut.
鋸 - Nokogiri
Usage: cutting branches
A traditional pruning saw for general purpose garden pruning of small trees and shrubs. Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke, rather than the push, which puts the blade under less pressure and means less hard work for you.
When cutting a branch, hold the tip of the branch firmly with one hand to prevent the branch from moving, and then pull the saw.
ちりとり - Chiritori: Dust Pan
Usage: scooping & carrying
Also called a てみ temi, it can be used for a wide range of purposes such as weeding, cleaning fallen leaves, and dust removal. Big enough to scoop a fair bit of garden waste into without emptying constantly. These are what gardeners in Japan use when they're weeding, cleaning and sweeping up.
刈込鋏 - Karikomi Basami: Hedge Shears
The long blades and short handles of these shears provide perfect balance for detailed shaping work, while being tough enough for hedge pruning. Unlike ki-basami and pruning shears, the aim with these is not to cut each branch one by one, but to create overall tree shapes. These are used with two hands at a time however not by moving both hands at once. Instead, hold one hand in the middle of the handle to fix it and move the other hand back and forth. For karikomi basami that have the blade angled upwards slightly, gardeners turn them upside down when cutting the curved surface of the rounded shapes on shrubs for the perfect hemispheric and round silhouette.
てほうき - Te-Hougi: Bamboo hand broom
Usage: sweep cuttings/leaves from delicate surfaces
Soft enough for sweeping over delicate surfaces like moss, but tough enough to clean up even the hard to get debris. We use it to sweep off any clippings that fall on shrubs during pruning or to clean the leaves and debris from our Korean grass and kurapia. Often used in conjunction with the chiritori.
ホリホリ・山菜ナイフ - Horihori or Sansai Knife
Usage: digging, weeding, sawing
In the West this knife is known as a Hori Hori knife. The word hori means “to dig” in Japanese. In Japan it is known as レジャーナイフ Leisure Knife. The Hori Hori Knife has its origins in Japanese hunting culture and is used in many other fields besides gardening. However, its scoop-like shape that is unique to Japan, is capable of digging soil and the two-sided blade has a straight edge for weeding and cultivating, while the other is serrated for cutting roots, dividing plants, and trimming branches. It's a multipurpose knife fantastic for sawing, trimming, cutting, transplanting and weeding in the garden.
Our Niwashi/Garden Curator will train you in how to use each tool when you are given a project that requires it. The first tools you will use in the Garden are likely your kama (hoe/weeder) and a chiritori (dust pan).
Our Youtube Garden How-tos: Click here
Garden Rules: Click here
Garden Q&A/FAQ: Click here