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Arts & Culture

Jingu Family Returns to San Antonio To Celebrate History, Unveil Paintings

This weekend, the Jingu family returned to San Antonio to celebrate their role in San Antonio history.

The Jingu House at the Japanese Tea Garden is named in their honor because the city invited them to live at the home when it was built in the early 1900's.

Mabel Jingu Enkoji, who was born at the house and had been involved in the home's restoration over the years, died in mid-July from heart failure.

Texas Public Radio's Ryan Loyd sat down with her daughter, Peggy Nishio, to talk about the Jingu legacy and a series of paintings called "The Four Seasons" that the city commissioned her sister, Nancy, to paint.

Nancy Enkoji talks about her paintings, "The Four Seasons," and her family's role in San Antonio.

They travel to San Antonio every year, but this visit, Peggy says, is not the same.

The Conversation

Ryan: "This trip is the first without your mother. Tell me how that is right now?"

Peggy: "For me, I feel like she's here in spirit. You know, it's still kind of, losing her, is still very fresh in our minds and so there's a part of me that thinks she's late to the party. But other times I thought, well, she would have wanted us to continue working with the city of San Antonio and the parks foundation and the Brackenridge Park Conservancy to continue to restore different parts of the garden. My grandfather was a painter and after this house was built and his family moved in, he had painted The Four Seasons and placed them in the ceiling, so that's how all this came about. So during the war when my grandmother and my mother's family were outsted, when it opened back up, the paintings weren't there. So they disappeared somewhere between the war and the start of the restorations. Through the stories that my mother and her sisters would tell, they said they were The Four Seasons, but nobody has any pictures of them. Nobody can recall exactly what they looked like and so we keep asking the question. So hopefully, someday we'll recover them. But in the meantime, they commissioned my sister, the San Antonio Parks Foundation, commissioned my sister to do her rendition of the Four Seasons.

Ryan: "As you look across here and you see all the people admiring the beauty of this place, what comes to your mind?"

Peggy: "I'm just happy that it's so beautiful. It's such a beautiful place that so many people enjoy and continue to enjoy. As I have stated to many friends, it's so nice that generations come and keep coming back. You hear so many stories. Every time we're here, we talk to visitors and they say, oh yeah, I remember coming here when I was little; my parents would bring us here for picnics on the weekend and now they're bringing their children. And it's so nice to see it to continue, and to realize that we've been able to continue having it as a public venue where families can come and enjoy the beauty.

Ryan: "The entrance still says Chinese Tea Garden. Is there any push from your family to maybe get that changed back?"

Peggy: "You know, we would enjoy that. I don't think we're pushing for it necessarily. It's part of the history of the Japanese Tea Garden because during the war, my grandmother and the children were removed. They still remained in San Antonio. It was so nice that the Methodist Church helped them find a place to live. And the Wu family moved in and thus the torii gate in the front was changed to Chinese Tea Garden but it's part of the history. The Wus were part of the Japanese Tea Garden as well and what we were discussing is that it might be nice to have more of a timeline so there's an explanation because many people say, well, I came to the Japanese Tea Garden, but I see the entrance says Chinese Tea Garden. So they're confused. So it'd be nice to have a timeline, maybe someplace in the house displayed so they understand the history of why that gate is there.

Ryan: "Is the Jingu family going to keep playing a role in San Antonio?"

Peggy: "Absolutely. You know, you can't walk away from your family history, especially when it's this fabulous. And we want to play a part, as long as the city of San Antonio and the foundations will keep us involved, we definitely want to play a part because it's what our ancestors would have wanted."

The family plans to keep traveling to San Antonio every year.

Nancy Enkoji also has another series of abstract pieces depicting the four seasons on display for sale at Cappy's Restaurant.