San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden.  It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique.  This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840.  Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.

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Entrance to the gardens

In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry.  At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.

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Old kiln door

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Kiln stack and buildings

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Such unique craftsmanship

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Living quarters for the laborers

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More openings for the kiln

By 1917 the cement plant had shut down.  The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden.  Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

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Restored pagoda, gardens and pond

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What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.

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Quiet beauty

In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden.  Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children.  Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

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Arched path built by prison labor

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Such beautiful landscaping

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Beautiful!

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Bridge to the kiln stack.

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The Japanese Tea House up above.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism.  In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.

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The roof was rebuilt in 2005. 

In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.

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So beautiful!

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View from the pagoda

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Path to the waterfall.

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I loved the waterfall!

All work was completed by 2011.  The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening.  In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Wonderful paths

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Hidden paths

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So peaceful

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Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby

I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory.  It was a wonderful place to visit.  So peaceful and beautiful.

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I loved walking these paths

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If I lived here, I would visit often!

Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well.  She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.

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Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂

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I love the colorful koi fish

I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens.  I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.

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This flower was as big as my head!