Yes, my ancestors came from Japan. My mother was born in a place called Hyogo-Ken, Japan which is near the big city of Kyoto.  My father was born in Takeo City, on an island called Kyushu, Japan.

FAMILY LIFE: What do you remember about your family? Parents? Grandparents? How many people were there in your family?

I remember quite a bit about my family as I came from a big family consisting of my mother and father, five sisters, and two brothers. I was the sixth child born on September 23, 1925 in San Antonio Texas. I remember my mother and father would speak Japanese to each other, but as we were the only Japanese family living in our area, my parents learned to read, write and   When you were growing up, where did you live? What do you remember about that place.

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas in one of the most beautiful places that any-one could call their home.  My home was a two story house that overlooked a Japanese style garden designed by my father in the early 1900’s for the city of San Antonio. The garden is part of the Brackenridge Park that still exists in San Antonio, called the Japanese Tea Garden. So, the house where I was born and grew up in, is part of a large park and next door (about 3 blocks) was the San Antonio Zoo and on the other side of my house was a beautiful outdoor theater (similar to a Greek theater) Since the garden is part of San Antonio’s tourists attractions, many people from all over the world come to see it.

What was your life like when you were growing up? Was it different from today? How was it different?

As I look back as to what my life was like when I was growing up, all I can think to say is that it was like a fantasy…a fairy tale.  Can you imagine having a beautiful garden with rock bridges crossing over lily ponds and being able to walk and play among all the pathways and bridges?  There were high rock walls that I would climb to take a “short cut” to the top of the walkways where there was a shaded Pagoda covering where I could sit on any bench to rest and enjoy the beautiful garden. In the ponds surrounding the garden were beautiful lilies and goldfish swimming everywhere.It was quite a large garden covering about 2 acres. There was never a time that flowers did not grow. I remember the gardener, Hugo Gerhardt (I called him Mr.Hugo), I would follow him on many occasion when he was tending the plants.  Sometimes, he would wear overalls made of rubber to go into the lily pond to trim the lily pads. Yes, I suppose it would be different to grow up there today, as the house is no longer a home for anyone. I visited San Antonio just this last October 1991 and my house is still there, looking a little sad and empty. There were no flowers or lilies growing in the garden or pond. It was during World War II. that changes were made and our family was told to move from the garden. I was a teen ager, just starting high school when the war broke out and since we are of Japanese ancestry, the city did not want Japanese people living in the park. My father died when I was twelve years old, so my brothers, sisters and I helped my mother find a house near the high school where my brother and sisters graduated from. With my mother to take care of the house, all of us who could get part time jobs, helped my mother pay for the house. So, my first job when I was sixteen, I worked in a florist shop with my sister Helen.

FOOD: Tell me about the kind of food your family ate. What was the favorite food of your family? What did your mother/father cook that you liked the most?

Our family ate very typical American food. Since we lived in Texas, we ate typical southern foods: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, Mexican food was a favorite, enchiladas, tortillas, beans. We had very little oriental food but I remember eating rice quite often. My favorite memory of being a child is coming home after school and my mother would have a snack ready for us, like hot chocolate and sometimes she would make doughnuts. We didn’t have Winchell’s in those days, and homemade doughnuts are so much better! I can’t remember what I liked best. My mother was a very good cook and I liked everything she made for us.

CLOTHING: Do you remember your clothes when you were young? Was there something you did not like to wear? Can you remember anything funny that happened to something you wore?

I remember very well the clothes I wore when I was young. I think I was a very lucky girl growing up. My mother had a dressmaker, and she would have clothes made for us and I remember they would cost only 75 cents for her to make one dress.  They were very pretty dresses, too. I remember one that my mother had made for me out of silk kimono material. As I grew up and took sewing classes in the 6th grade I learned to sew and I enjoyed making a lot of my own clothes. I have heard my older sisters talk about when they were growing up and they do not have the happy memories that I do about clothes or shoes, since they were growing up in what was called the Depression and everyone was having a hard time. By the time I was growing up, I was able to have nice clothes and shoes. I remember one of my favorite dresses was a Shirley Temple (a well known child actress in those days) dress.


SCHOOL:  What was your school like? What did you enjoy about school? What didn’t you enjoy? How did you get to school?

The elementary school I attended is called Lamar Elementary and I drove by my school this last October. The school is a very nice two story red brick building that took care of grades K through 5th. All my sisters and my one brother finished elementary school there and by the time I came along, they knew all about my family, as we all would have the same teachers through the years. I remember enjoying almost everything about going to school when I was your age. I had a lot of good friends to play with, we would play house on the school ground, marking off rooms with pebbles and pretending we had a kitchen, bedroom, etc. As we got older, we would play baseball and I remember making a home plate out of some old tile chips. Since I lived in the park, my sisters and I would walk through the park, across a wooden foot bridge across the San Antonio river (that flowed through the swimming pool of the park) One time, my sister Helen was walking backwards across the bridge and she fell in the river.  I remember coming home and writing on the bedroom wall that my sister fell in the river on that day. If we had rainy weather, my father would drive us to school, but most of the time, we would walk, which was about 3 miles.  I also walked to school when I went to Junior High School and that was a little farther. When I got to high school I would walk about 3 blocks to take the bus to school.

ENTERTAINMENT: What did you do for fun and enjoyment:  Were there any specialgames you played when you were a child?

My childhood was fun because I lived in the park. The swimming pool was nearby, I learned to swim by jumping off the diving board, so I still don’t swim very well, but I know I can swim well enough that I won’t drown. Since I lived in the park, I could run down to visit all the animals in the zoo which I did quite often. My favorite places to visit were the lions, tigers and monkeys. My sister Lillian and I would play dress up quite often and enjoy playing house. My younger brother is ten years younger than me, so I would take him for walks around the garden and the park.

SPECIAL PLACES:  Were there any special places your family visited?

A typical Sunday outing that I remember was when my father would take us out to the countryside to visit a farmer friend of his. The most special place that our father took the whole family was when he put us all on the train to go the the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1934.  I had never been on a train before, and that was a long trip to Chicago.  One incident that stands out in my mind about that trip is when we stopped in St. Louis to change trains and I went to the restroom and I did not know what toilet to use since one was marked COLORED and one was marked WHITE. At that time African-Americans were segregated and could not use the same public toilets as others.

I did not know what segregation meant, therefore, I did not know whether I was COLORED or WHITE. Once we arrived in Chicago, we stayed for the whole summer and that was a special vacation since my father was managing the Japan Tea Exhibition and we were able to go to the Fair everyday. The exhibit was in the Horticultural Building, so again I was surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers.

REMEMBRANCES: When you were growing up, what kinds of things made you happy? What made you sad?

When I was growing up, there were many things that made me happy. Just being about to walk out my house to walk in our garden would make me happy. As I was growing up and had a bicycle, I was happy to ride my bike through the park to the Museum and then across Broadway (a big street) to visit my friend Gloria Moffett. We had many friends our age that would get together to ride our bikes, or play basketball. I remember being sad when my father was sick, I was about 11 years old. I remember him asking me to come by his bed to talk to him.  He died when I was 12 years old.

Describe a memorable incident that you had as a child.  What happened? Who was involved? What was the outcome?

I had 2 memorable incidents as a child. One, was when I saved the most Suncrest orange drink bottle caps and I was invited onto the stage of the largest theater in San Antonio to receive the first prize… a radio.  But the most memorable incident that I had as a child was the time I heard a knock on  the door of our house in the Park. It was morning and very quite, so I went to the door to see who it was.  I opened the door and through the screen door, there stood a little monkey. Just for a little while, the monkey and I looked at each other and as he kept holding out his hands for something to eat,all I had was some chewing gum, so I unwrapped the gum, he put it in his mouth,and he started to chew! By that time, my mother thought we had better notify the Zoo that we had a monkey at our doorsteps. Soon,the man whom we knew as “Joe, the Monkey Man” (we called him that because  he was the caretaker of the monkeys and was always in the cages with the monkeys) came and picked up the monkey to take it back to the zoo. The funny thing that happened after that was that every time I went to the visit that special monkey he remembered me by acting like he was chewing gum and jump up and down like he was happy to speak English as well as my sisters and brothers.  We all learned to speak the Spanish language too, since there were mostly Mexican families living near us and my folks had Spanish speaking people to work for them. My father was a tea importer and I remember that he would receive very big beautiful wooden boxes of tea from Japan. The wooden boxes had beautiful Japanese silk screened drawings on the outside and inside the boxes the tea was well protected with heavy lead coverings. My mother helped my father open up a tea room and served tea and rice cakes. My mother was a very pretty woman, and my father was a very nice looking man. They both worked hard to raise our family well. I remember my father was a very good watercolor artist and liked to paint. My mother was raised in the Methodist Church in Japan, and I remember her singing church songs in Japanese.  My mother also enjoyed writing poetry and we had good times going to movies when I was growing up. When I grew up and met other people who did not know their mother very well, I am happy that I grew up with a mother I could talk to and enjoy.Since my mother and father came to the United States from Japan, I did not know my grandparents, and my mother and father did not tell us much about them.


Father: Kimi Eizo Jingu, born 1881 in Saga-Ken, Japan, died 1938 in San Antonio, Texas

Mother: Miyoshi Alice Otsuki Jingu, born 1893 in Hyogo-Ken, Japan


  • Mary Yuriko     born 1916 in Tarkana, Texas
  • Ruth Emiko       born 1917 in Alice, Texas
  • Rae Sayoko     born 1919 in San Antonio, Texas
  • James Eiichi    born 1921 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Helen Eiko       born 1922 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Mabel Yoshiko born 1925 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Lillian Isoko      born 1927 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Kimi Eizo Jr.     born 1936 in San Antonio, Texas

Upon my mother’s arrival she met and married Mr. Jingu and they  moved to Texas. They lived in Texarkana, Texas where their first daughter, Mary Yuriko was born. He worked as a caretaker and a peanut farmer. Inexperienced as he was as a farmer, he decided to move to the “city” which was San Antonio. By that time, their second daughter,Ruth Emiko,  was born. Jingu was an accomplished artist so he sold his paintings in the lobby of the Gunter Hotel and it was then that the Park Commissioner, Ray Lambert asked him to design a Japanese Garden in Brackenridge Park.

Mr. Lambert first visualized a flower garden within the quarry left by a cement company in 1917. Plans were formulated for the project by Lambert’s park engineer, W. S. Delery, although there was no money available for the project. The idea was kept alive, and eventually several individual and corporate donors provided the money and materials for the project.

They were told that they could always live there and be a part of the garden.   In 1926 Mr. Jingu opened the “Bamboo Room” during the winter to sell tea and light lunches. He covered the walls with split bamboo

My father framed his water-color painting in the ceiling which were of the four seasons. He became well known in the Japanese tea business and was a representative of the Shizuoka Tea Association of Japan.  Mr. and Mrs. Jingu and their eight children became the personification of the garden. Jingu and his family could live on the premises and establish a home a two story rock house was constructed for the JJmbert.

Mr. Jingu passed away in 1938, and Mrs.  Jingu continued to operated the Tea Garden with the help of her older children and hired help.

December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was bombed  and war was declared between Japan and the United States.Son James then a student at the University of Texas in Austin, returned home and enlisted in the United States Army.

Spring of 1942:The city of San Antonio said the Jingu Family could no longer live in the garden. It was taken over by a restaurant owner Mr. Wu. The garden became known as the Chinese Sunken Garden

Water was turned off twice by the city  when Mrs. Jingu and family could not find a house to move to.

A home was found in the residential area near Jefferson High School where Helen, Mabel and Lillian completed their high school education and Kimi was in junior high school.

When James enlisted in the army he was sent to Louisiana for basic training  in the 442nd Infantry and then shipped to do service as a radio operator in Italy and France and received a Purple Heart, before returning home to resume studies and receiving a degree in South American Economics.

Rae worked as a Medical Secretary at the Fort Sam Houston Brooke General Hospital.  Ruth worked at a Civil Service job. With the income from the sisters, and Helen and Mabel working after school at a flower shop, the family was able to stay together.

Ruth met and married William Yamadera, a service man stationed at Ft. Sam Houston and Rae married a service man Walter Naritomi. Consequently, the younger sisters, Lillian and Mabel also met service men serving the United States army.. All of these men are American born, as were the Jingu family, but since their families were living on the west coast, their families were evacuated into relocation centers( Army barracks for family living quarters provided by the government) situated away from the west coast.

The evacuation of these families meant loss of property, homes,business and jobs.In 1900 the United States Congress passed a Civil Liberties Act for reparation to these people who were evacuated from their homes during World War II.

1949: James Jingu wrote to Commissioner Henry Hein with a proposal to regain possession of the Tea Garden. With the help of former congressman and attorney, Maury Maverick, several letters were exchanged, but to no avail.

1969: James Jingu while working as public relations officer for the Yamaha Company suffered a heart attack and passed away on April 16, 1969.

1969: Mrs. Jingu passed away 6 months after her son James.

1976: The Japanese Tea Garden was added to the National Resister of Historic Places. From the initial quarry operation up to the present time, five major ethnic groups have had some sort of role at the garden. The German masons gave rise to the cement business,encouraged by an Englishman. And the adaptive reuse of the quarry which gave it its name, brought in the Japanese Jingu family, followed by a Chinese family. The contributions of these different cultural backgrounds speaks to both the rich history of the garden, and the cultural diversity of San Antonio.

1984: October, At the suggestion of San Antonio Councilman Van Archer, the city council voted to change the name of the Gardens back to the original name Japanese Tea Garden. The city invited the Jingu family and their spouses for the unveiling of a new entryway and bronze plaque at the Garden.The family was honored at a World Affairs Council luncheon when the Ambassador from Japan Yoshio Okawara was the guest e quarry workers who lived in the housing below the quarry were of Mexican descent, the German gardener, Hugo Gerhardt, who maintain workers who lived in the housing below the quarry were of Mexican descent,The ambassador, declaring the renaming of the garden shows “ we can resolve our difference and live as good neighbors, “ also asserted that across the boundaries of time and culture, all men are brothers.”

The Travis Park Methodist Church was the Church attended by Mrs. Jingu is Park Methodist Church was the Church attended by Mrs. Jingu (who was a Christian in Japan) and her children. Mamie Dial is a name remembered as one of the family friends and fellow church members.