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San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Garden reveals new augmented reality application

main pavilion at the Japanese Tea Garden
San Antonio Parks Foundation
main pavilion at the Japanese Tea Garden

The attributes of one of San Antonio’s best-kept secrets are now being highlighted in a new high-tech app. That secret is Brackenridge Park’s Japanese Tea Garden, just outside the zoo.

The Japanese Tea Garden doesn’t get the tourist “love” that the River Walk and The Alamo do, but its incredible 11 acres are filled with arcing stone bridges, Japanese koi ponds and even a waterfall. Now, all of that is detailed and in your phone by way of a new app.

“It is lovingly referred to as our COVID project, something that our team worked on over the last 18 months, and it's one of the first in the nation to have an interactive augmented reality component,” The San Antonio Parks Foundation's Libby Day said.

Several of the Tea Garden’s most interesting attributes have been captured in an augmented reality context, and then you take over on your phone.

“There's a koi fish augmented reality component where you can actually color your own koi fish in. And then when you swipe up, it releases it into the pond,” Day said.

Japanese Tea Garden app signage
The San Antonio Parks Foundation
Japanese Tea Garden app signage

The app is geared for both young and old visitors, with historical educational components. A family member with roots deep in the garden oversaw its historic attributes.

“The daughter of one of the family members who lived at the garden and helped operate the restaurant there in the 1920s and ‘30s was able to be a part of the app development process and help go over the history and make sure that the family history there had integrity,” she said.
Day said the interactive aspect of the app is best experienced there at the garden.

“When you walk around the garden, there are signs and they're placed at locations that are points of interest in the garden,” she said. “So the Dragon Bridge, koi pond, the pavilion and then the Torii gate at the entrance.”

QR Codes there trigger stories and pictures about the Japanese Tea Garden on your phone. The app itself, like entrance into the garden, is free.

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Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii