The rain has stopped..

IMG_1910

..the clouds have drifted away, and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.

                                                                                                        Ryokan Taigu

If there was just one piece of advice I could give in regards to visiting anything outdoors in San Antonio, it is that rain will kill the crowds. Even if the rain has been gone for five hours or isn’t expected for five hours, it will absolutely clear the dance floor. Furthermore, if you see San Antonians sitting on a patio during the rain – even well covered – it means there is not a single seat left in the restaurant. They are desperate if they are courting precipitation. Which could also (probably) indicate that the food is very good.

I was fortunate to visit San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden right after a nice shower. Parking is one of the main drawbacks of the garden, especially on a weekend. But even on a Sunday we were able to find more empty spots than filled ones.

IMG_1887

The new VIVA bus routes do make visiting the Tea Gardens and other sites easier than ever.

VIVA is a new service line from VIA Metropolitan Transit that takes you to the most-visited sites and attractions in the heart of San Antonio.

Three distinct VIVA routes connect riders with historic places, opportunities to learn and discover, classic and contemporary art, and popular dining and entertainment spots. There’s something for everyone on VIVA, including stops at the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site, the Alamo, King William Historic District, Southtown, Downtown, Market Square, the River Walk, Pearl, and the South Broadway corridor.

The Tea Gardens being one of the stops on the “South Broadway corridor”. You can pay $1.30 per ride or save a bit with a $2.75 unlimited day pass or even $12 unlimited week pass. I haven’t had a chance to take a ride yet but I love seeing the funky rainbow wrapped buses outside my window at home.

To reiterate VIA, the Japanese Tea Gardens are “located in the heart of the city”. You can get a good glimpse of the Alamo City skyline on the garden’s perimeter trail. Though gorgeous and tranquil (sans crowd) now, the gardens do reveal a stormy and even tragic past.

Initially I was confused by the entrance to gardens stating, “Chinese Tea Garden.” However, after walking around the grounds I finally located a plaque off to the side with title that said something like “history of the gardens.” An emotional little read was not what I expected. The Chinese Tea Garden sign is in fact not the original. You can read the full story, “How World War II Changed History At San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden” at TPR.org.

After reading the history of the gardens, I contacted my former professor of landscape architecture history at Fay Jones. Though I sent the TPR link, I highlighted some of the more significant points of the story. The Japanese American Jingu Family came to San Antonio after a family friend and park commissioner convinced the Jingus to settle in the gardens if he built them a house. Many of their children were born in the stone garden house in San Antonio, while the Jingu family cared for the garden that had been constructed in a former quarry.

Later the Jingu family opened a tea room, which in a way still functions today. Though it is no longer served by the original family nor does it carry the former name Bamboo Room Restaurant, it seeks to remind visitors of the past as Jingu House now.

Unfortunately, the Jingus did not leave by choice. My professor replied to my mix of amazement at the garden and sadness at the history stating

That is a fascinating garden, as is the story behind it. It reminds me of numerous other such gardens. It seems Japanese-themed gardens were all the rage in the 1930s, but most did not survive the backlash from WWII. It’s remarkable that this one did!

In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. Despite being Americans, the Jingus were declared to be of equal threat as their ancestral home. Even though Jimmy, the son of Father Jingu, held a Purple Heart – the family was banished. The city shut off the water and electricity to ensure the Jingu family would leave their home.

IMG_1894
The downtown skyline can be seen from the perimeter trail.

My professor had expressed his surprise over the tea garden outliving the war. But it did not survive with a Japanese name. Instead, the garden was renamed the “Chinese Tea Garden,” as expressed by the signage today. It was not until the 1980s that thankfully the gardens were renamed to honor the original caretakers. The remaining Jingu family members even traveled to Texas for the ceremony.

jingu_family_on_bridge

The Japanese Tea Gardens are one of the more beautiful places (not to mention admission free) one could visit in San Antonio, and perhaps Texas. I have visited some of the more renowned “Japanese” gardens in the US in Brooklyn, Seattle, St. Louis, but none capture the sublime feeling of stepping down into the quarry turned paradise that we are hiding in the heart of this city.

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away, and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the Way.

 

Advertisements

One thought on “The rain has stopped..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s