Friday, November 4, 2011

The Japanese Tea Garden: San Antonio

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio's Brackenridge Park completed another phase of its restoration on October 15 with the reopening of the historic Jingu House as a restaurant. 

Originally begun as a lily pond in an old stone quarry, the gardens were completed in 1918 by prison labor.  The Jingu family lived in the house, also running a tea house there from 1926 until they were evicted during WWII.  The gardens were also renamed the Chinese Tea Gardens at that time, and only changed back to its original name in 1984.  Over time the gardens fell into disrepair and were renovated in 2008 with funds from the city and private donors.  The reopening of the original house as a restaurant marks the completion of the second phase of renovation and provides yet another reason to visit the gardens.
From the the rock pagoda to the bridge in the garden, Japanese style has been reinterpreted with local materials and building techniques to create a unique and beautiful place.

Breathtaking in beauty and scale it's a must-see for those who enjoy gardens, ponds, waterlilies, fish, birds, stonework, bridges, old stone buildings, interesting walks....Did I miss anyone?

The tour begins just beyond the faux bois gate and up the steps to the stunning rock pagoda

 From the pagoda a view down into the gardens, belying its origins as an abandoned quarry


Somehow the camera does not show how stunning the view actually is...

Down the path into the gardens

Taking in details of the stonework

The gardens on the lower level are so inviting

Large ponds cover the floor of the old quarry


The waterlilies are stunning

A turtle waits for a snack

Even the lily pads and fish are color coordinated

The stone bridge is a focal point amid the gardens

Across the bridge are more ponds and a chance to look back at the tall rock columns supporting the pagoda

At the far side of the quarry is a trail to the top

Climbing the trail along the side of the quarry you can see the microclimate change with the elevation

And be treated to a gorgeous view back across the gardens from the top

Heading down to the gardens again more great rock work here

A look back, the trail goes over the rock walls on the right

Take a different trail back to the entrance

This trail leads through the stunning rock columns supporting the pagoda.  

A look back at the gardens from this side

From here you can look up at the roof of the pagoda


The view from inside the pagoda

Another view of this amazing structure

More colorful plantings line the walk to the parking lot

No surprise I took so many pictures that there are enough for at least one more post showing more details of the flowers and foliage in the gardens.

Brackenridge Park is close to downtown and the San Antonio Zoo is nearby.  No admission fee for the gardens and parking is also free.  Accessible entrances are available for both the pagoda and the lily pond gardens.


  1. The structures and sunken gardens are so beautiful. We use to go there a lot in the 70's & 80's, but I haven't been back since the restoration. I'm so glad they kept this unique landmark and didn't tear it down and build apartments. Great job capturing the grandeur of the gardens.

  2. Thank you so much RW. Since you've been there, I truly appreciate your comments. The camera lens can be so limiting sometimes.

    Yes, what were they thinking? That was really not a good moment, I'm so glad local groups jumped in to help raise funds for restoration.

  3. I haven't been there since I was a small child.
    Looks like it's time for a return visit.

    Thanks for the tour.
    Have a good weekend.

  4. WOW! I missed that on my Sept fly-by trip? That is worth one day itself. The gnarly local rock to interpret the Japanese structures is surprising, but I am liking that.

    Plus the vistas, water, and plant use are simply amazing. It evokes a place far, far from a large city in S Texas.

    Thanks for giving me another place I have to visit...soon!

  5. DD - The 33 photos in the post are just an overview. It does seem like San Antonio, yet far away at the same time.

    The gardens and the entire park are worth a visit. They are on the list I sent a few months ago, but your visit was really quick.
    You will definitely want to have time take the trail up the side of the old quarry walls.

    Try to avoid the Easter and Fiesta crowds in April.

    So glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Linda - It's just amazing and, along with some of our other great sights around town, worth taking a trip down here.

  7. For living as close to SA as I do, I don't get down there much. I need to change that! This looks like it would be a great field trip destination. Thanks for introducing me to such a beautiful place so close to home!

  8. I haven't been here since 1989, though I've visited San Antonio many times since. I need to make another visit.

  9. Cat - It's so unique and should be on every gardener's list for an SA visit.

    Pam - You will be impressed by the recent restoration, it's an amazing spot.


Thank you for stopping by. To comment simply open the Name/URL option, put in your name or initials and skip the URL.