About 25 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, in the City of Delray Beach, is a cultural experience like no other. The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a celebration of Japanese arts and culture. Their mission is to provide authentic Japanese cultural experiences that entertain, educate and inspire. We think they’ve achieved that mission. The museum is ranked as the number one attraction in Delray Beach. It was also ranked 8th among over 300 Japanese gardens by the Journal of Japanese Gardening.
The history of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens dates back as early as 1903. Japanese national Jo Sakai visited Florida that year and pitched an idea of creating Japanese agricultural colonies in the state to the Jacksonville Board of Trade. His goal was to revolutionize the farming industry. The concept was said to be enthusiastically supported, prompting Sakai to begin his search for the first colony site.
Sakai returned to Japan to organize a group of pioneering farmers and secure investors. In 1905, Sakai’s group settled in a section of Boca Raton. The farming colony was named Yamato — a name used for Japan centuries ago. Unfortunately, the goal of revolutionizing the farming industry never materialized. In the 1920s the community of 30 to 35 people abandoned the project, opting to relocate to other parts of the country or return to their homeland.
The only person from the Yamato Colony to stay behind was George Morikami. In 1973, he donated his Delary Beach farm to Palm Beach County for use as a park. In 1977 the museum opened with its first building, which was later named Yamato-kan.
Yamato-kan is the original building, which is fashioned after a Japanese villa. The structure is home to two permanent exhibits. The original exhibit is named The Yamato Colony: Pioneering Japanese in Florida. This exhibit presents the history of the Yamato Colony. The second exhibit is Japan Through the Eyes of a Child.
The main building, which opened in 1993, features three galleries, a 225-seat theater, research library, classrooms, tea house with viewing gallery and the Cornell Cafe.
Six distinct gardens make up what is called Roji-en: Garden of the Drops of Dew. This living exhibit pays homage to famous gardens in Japan, each from a different historical period:
- Shinden Garden
- Early Rock Garden
- Paradise Garden
- Hiraniwa Flat Garden
- Karesansui Late Rock Garden
- Modern Romantic Garden
- Wear comfortable shoes and allow at least two hours to enjoy the museum and gardens.
- Purchase fish food before beginning your tour, so you can interact with the koi and turtles.
- The self-guided audio tour offers a nice introduction to the museum. For a more informative experience, consider opting for a guided tour.
For more information about this local treasure, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens website.