Japanese Tea Gardens (Sunken Gardens)
Step through the Japanese Tea Garden’s front gate – a replica of a traditional Japanese torii gate – and you’ll be transported into another world. This peaceful garden is filled with exotic plants, as well as pagodas, koi (carp) ponds and even a small waterfall. There’s also an authentic Japanese-style cafe that serves Asian food, sandwiches, salads, cakes and beverages.
The garden was built in 1918 on the site of an abandoned quarry adjacent to the city’s Brackenridge Park. It began as a lily pond that eventually was surrounded by plant-lined paths and a stunning Japanese-style pagoda. Located near the entrance to the park, the Pagoda is a large, open-air pavilion featuring stone columns and beautiful views of the lily pond and waterfall. Weddings and other events take place under the shady thatched roof. Right next door is the Jingu House Restaurant, which opened in 2011.
Building this world-class Japanese garden was really an effort of the entire city. Local residents donated bulbs and the City nursery provided exotic plants. The City Public Service donated a lighting system. Improvements have continued throughout the decades. The garden was closed for almost a year in 2007 and reopened in March 2008 with a $1.5 million facelift. The waterfall and ponds were fixed up, new plants added and more walkways built, keeping much of the history but adding new life to the garden.
It’s free to come and wander around. Visit all year, between dawn and dusk. In summer, shaded walkways and lots of trees provide a welcome escape from the Texan heat. Bring a book and find a spot under the Pagoda or by the waterfall for a quiet, relaxing afternoon.