Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose


I slept 11 hours last night! It was glorious, and must have been overdue. It felt good to just lounge around for about an hour after awakening, too, before my bladder finally compelled me to get up.

Unfortunately, after showering, I spent the following hour and a half on hold with the Oregon Health Plan. My health insurance renewal is coming due very soon, and since I have no substantial income this year, I’m wondering if I would qualify. Right now I’m paying $535 per month for a terrible private plan that doesn’t really cover anything outside of Oregon. (I don’t think the Oregon Health Plan would, either, but at least they’d charge me a lot less, I think.) But alas, I couldn’t find out if I would qualify, nor what it would cost or cover, because no one ever picked up after 90 minutes. I finally decided that at 1:30, it was time for me to give up and head out into the sunshine. Maybe I can try again in a couple days.

The last time I was here in Campbell, my Warmshowers hosts took me to visit the wonderful Hakone Japanese Gardens. But we didn’t have time during that stay to also visit the San Jose Japanese Friendship Garden, so I made a point to go there today. The air was chilly and crisp, but the sun was out, and the leaves were very pretty in the garden.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the relatively large scale of the garden, it is public and free to visit. I know how labor-intensive Japanese gardens are to maintain, so I’m impressed that the city apparently invests enough to do this without charging admission.

I was sad to discover, though, that most of the ponds had been drained (since 2017! And they are not planning to refill them until late next year, 2022. It was because of flooding that damaged the pump house and filter system.) These kinds of gardens look so different without the water. I was reminded of my visit to the Montreal Botanical Garden a few years ago; the classical Chinese garden there was missing the water in its ponds for maintenance at that time, too.

Nevertheless, this garden was lovely. I admired all the classical style elements such as Japanese maples, stone lanterns, a red bridge, and even a small koi pond (where all the fish have been temporarily relocated)… and then, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a strawberry madrone tree, complete with ripe berries! I proceeded to enjoy a few surreptitious fruit snacks from the surrounding sidewalk and ground. What a treat to find myself in California during the perfect season for these berries!

After the garden, I made my way to a wonderful all-vegan hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant, Tofoo Com Chay. I ordered green beans and basil eggplant with tofu and fried rice, and it was incredible. If you ever find yourself in San Jose, please treat yourself to this place!

After that, I pedaled over to the nearby Cinnaholic outpost, where I got a decadent cinnamon roll and an enormous chocolate chip cookie to go.

Then I headed back to my Warmshowers house. It was already getting dark, but that allowed me to enjoy some cool San Jose seasonal outdoor decorations and lights.

This evening I caught up with a friend by phone, which was great since we hadn’t talked since before I embarked on my adventure.

And tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early to make my way across the mountains to Santa Cruz. It will be more of a physical challenge than I’ve had in a while (35 miles and nearly 2,000 feet of elevation) but I’m looking forward to the challenge as well as the beauty of the route, and the wonderful destination. Santa Cruz is such a gorgeous combination of beaches and redwood forests. I’m looking forward to meeting my new Servas hosts there tomorrow evening.

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