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The first time I went to the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, I was a tad disappointed that I could easily walk through the entire garden in five minutes. I’d been hoping for acres and acres of koi ponds and bamboo forests to get lost in.

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This time, I approached it from a different, more contemplative angle. Rather than paying the $4 entrance fee and seeking a nice long walk, I went in seeking stillness. It was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, and though the rest of the park was crowded with school groups and joggers, the garden was quiet. Even with two or three other guests wandering around the place at the same time, the garden had a serenity about it that called for whispering.

As I meandered slowly through the garden, I was pleased to see that down the hill, a major expansion has begun. Sometime in 2014, the Japanese Friendship Garden will expand from 2½ to 11 acres, which will include walking trails, a waterfall and lily pond, and an herb and tea garden. The entrance fee will expand as well, though the administration has not yet decided on a number.

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After a brief stroll, I made my way into the Exhibit House, where a large glass wall looks out on a peaceful rock garden and invites quiet introspection. Currently on view in the Exhibit House is Beauty in the Obscure, a collection of paintings by Ben Aubert. After my 15 minutes of rock garden viewing, I allowed myself another 15 to contemplate which of the lovely paintings I would like to take home on my walls.

On March 17, the Japanese Friendship Garden will host the 7th annual Cherry Blossom Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Free admission for children under 12 in the company of a paying adult.

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