I can’t resist a Japanese garden. It doesn’t matter where it is, I’ll find a way to get there. This one proved to be a little harder though. It’s relatively close, but they are only open Monday thru Friday, 9-5. Those aren’t the most convenient times. I finally had a normal, non-holiday day of work over Christmas, so I took my parents to see it.
This garden has quite a history. It’s in Brackenridge Park, which opened in San Antonio in 1901. At the time, there was still an operating rock quarry, used for cement. The cement company moved in 1908, more land was donated, and the idea for a lily pond was formed to make use of the abandoned quarry. Between 1917 and 1918, prison labor was used to form the walkways, bridges, island, and pagoda. Bulbs were donated by residents, with the exotic plants and lighting provided by the city. It was finished in 1919.
In 1926 the city invited Kimi Eizo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, to move to the garden, where he opened the Bamboo Room, serving tea and light lunches. After his death in the late 1930s, his family continued to operate the tea garden until 1942. They were then evicted due to the anti-Japanese sentiment of WWII. A Chinese-American family operated the facility until the early 1960s, and it was known as the Chinese Sunken Garden. In 1984, the area was rededicated as the Japanese Tea Garden in a ceremony attended by the Jingu’s children and representatives of the Japanese government.
The garden has been renovated in recent years. It’s free to get in, but note the hours. One of the cement stacks is still on the property, as well as a gate that reads Chinese Tea Garden. It’s not overly huge, but it is gorgeous and there are steps and trails to get a workout in.