South Texas Destinations: Japanese Tea Garden, San Antonio, Texas

I got my pictures of the San Antonio Museum of Art.  I’m going to stay in Brackenridge Park for now, since that’s the current plan.  I also probably will need to return to the Witte Museum before making that writeup. Admission is (as I write this) free on Tuesday nights so if I have an early day on a Tuesday coming up in the near future, I’ll go out and nose around and take some pictures. They’re remodeling the museum right now, so I will probably have to visit it again and then do an updated post once the work is done.

As I wrote in my previous post on Brackenridge Park, the Japanese Tea Garden has its origin in the Alamo Cement Company quarry.  The other half of the origin of the garden is a man by the name of Ray Lambert.  Lambert was commissioner of the San Antonio parks in the early 1900s, just as Brackenridge Park was being organized.  Lambert originally tried to turn the Alamo Cement Company buildings into a mini theme park on a Mexican theme.  They opened shops selling Mexican crafts and had a restaurant in those buildings.  That idea didn’t last, but one of his other ideas did.

In 1917, Lambert decided to turn the quarry into what was then called a “lily pond.”  They got donations of lily bulbs and more exotic plants to include in the “pond” and set up water features, including a waterfall.  Nine years later, a Japanese artist by the name of Kimi Eizo Jingu was invited to move himself and his family into a combination house and tea room that was built on the property.  The Jingu family had eight children, who all lived in that house with them for a period of 16 years.  In 1942, some of the people of the United States, which was at war with Japan, began to mistrust the Japanese. Because of this mistrust, the Jingu family were evicted, the name changed to the Chinese Sunken Garden (the sign is still there as a testament to this period of history) and a Chinese family, the Wus, moved into the house.

Gazebo Entrance with Smokestack, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio
The gazebo near the entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden with the smokestack from the cement factory kiln in the background.

The Garden retained the “Chinese” name for another 42 years until the “Japanese” name was restored in 1984.  The house is now known as the Jingu House Restaurant. They serve California rolls and bento boxes along with other Asian-inspired meals. I don’t believe that anyone lives in the house anymore.

The city website says that the Garden is wheelchair accessible, but I distinctly recall (and can see in photographs) stairs that look awfully narrow, in addition to being, well, stairs.  And one of the TripAdvisor reviews backs me up.  Some, but not all, of the paths are accessible.

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