Visitors are often surprised to find a connection between Southern Florida and Japan that is a century old. A group of Japanese farmers established a community in this region, intending to revolutionize the agriculture of Florida. Jo Sakai, who graduated from New York University, returned to Japan in 1904. He then organized a group of farmers and brought them to present-day Boca Raton.
Along with some assistance from the Model Land Company, Sakai and the other pioneering farmers created a farming colony that they called Yamato, which is an ancient name for the country of Japan. Unfortunately, their experimentation with crops yielded rather disappointing results, causing the colony of Yamato to fall quite short of the goals they had hoped to achieve. The Yamato Colony, which never expanded beyond thirty-five people, finally gave up on their goals by the 1920’s. The families of farmers left, one by one, to live in other areas of the country or to return to Japan.
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens strives to engage visitors by offering experiences of Japanese culture that inspire and educate. Founded in 1977, the museum has since served as a center for Japanese culture and arts in Southern Florida. Morikami aims spread an appreciation for Japan’s living culture through traditional Japanese festivals, educational programs for local organizations and schools, monthly tea ceremonies, and rotating exhibits.
The Yamato-kan, which is the original structure at Morikami, is designed to look like a Japanese villa. The building contains a circle of exhibit galleries that surround an open courtyard featuring a Japanese dry garden. There is also a permanent exhibit focused on the Yamato Colony’s history, along with Japan Through the Eyes of a Child, which is an interactive exhibit that offers an insight into the contemporary culture of Japan.
The main building of the Morikami Museum opened to the public in 1993 in order to provide additional programs, more facility versatility, and to meet the needs of the growing community. The architecture of the museum is modeled after traditional Japanese designs. Inside the building are three galleries for exhibitions, an authentic tea house featuring a viewing gallery, a theater that seats 225 guests, a gift shop, a library, and classrooms. Lakeside terraces and the Cornell Cafe offers panoramic views for guests to enjoy while they dine. The collection of artifacts and objects at the museum include over seven thousand Japanese art pieces, including over two hundred pieces of textile and fine art, and five hundred items for tea ceremonies.
Surrounding the two buildings of the Morikami Museum are acres of Japanese gardens, featurings walking paths, places to rest, a collection of bonsai, koi-filled lakes, and more. There are also nature trails, picnic areas, and pine forests nearby. The gardens at Morikami reflect the major eras of garden design in Japan, dating back to the eighth century up through the twentieth century. These Japanese gardens act as an extension of the Morikami Museum. This unique site has become one of the area’s most beloved cultural attractions.
4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach, Florida, Phone: 561-495-0233