Mabel Enkoji and Duane Eaton >



Grand Re-opening
of Japanese Tea Garden
of the Sunken Gardens,
Brackenridge Park

San Antonio, Texas
Chapter 2

Text by Don Pylant
Most photos and captions by Duane Eaton
Click images to enlarge

March 8, 2008, the Japanese Tea Gardens in Brackenridge Park re-opened with a renovated Pavilion and lily ponds stocked with koi, waterlilies and other aquatic plants. The waterfall was running and the planting beds were full of spring-blooming color offering citizens of San Antonio, Texas, a taste of the Tea Gardens' former glory. 

A bridge spans the massive pond so you can get closer to the waterfall.

View of the right pond from the Pavilion

Rocks gracefully create the patterns for this colorful garden.

"When the Japanese Tea Garden is mentioned, the constant comment is 'I remember … ,' followed by a pleasant memory from the speaker," says a very happy Bonnie Conner of the San Antonio Parks Foundation. The foundation has looked forward to this day for almost three years. Two other happy attendees were Mabel Enkoji, one of the children of Kimi Jingu who helped design and build the garden, and Roy Lambert, the grandson of Ray Lambert, the Parks Commissioner that started the garden project.

Mabel Enkoji, daughter of garden designer and builder Kimi Jingu

Mabel Enkoji and her family came in from across the US to attend the garden's re-opening.

East meets West. Mabel's granddaughter is in appropriate attire.

The two ponds that surround a large central island contain approximately 350,000 gallons (1,324,500 liters) of water. These two lily ponds will be the centerpiece of the restored garden with more than 50 waterlilies and aquatic plants along with hundreds of Japanese koi. They have been repaired, sealed with a sprayed-on poly liner, and plumbed with a dual circulation and filter system including ozone sterilization. 

 Mabel's father made plant stands out of stone. >


The Gardens will be restored to general conditions existing in 1930 based on photographs, historic documents and oral histories gathered by the committee. Of course, this restoration will include the impressively huge Amazon waterlilies (Victoria). See Chapter 1.

Mrs. Conner and the Master Plan Committee of the Parks Foundation are not finished with the gardens. "There is much to be done and we welcome those who would be interested in joining us in this effort as we move on to restore the Jingu House and garden areas." The Gardens and ponds will be managed and maintained by City of San Antonio Parks Department and Texas Master Gardener volunteers.

Amid the anti-Japanese sentiments following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Tea Garden was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden. The name was officially changed back to the Japanese Tea Garden in the 1980s.

Restoring the Lily Ponds, Chapter 1

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