Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum is a cultural gem in Delray, Florida (what is sometimes called northern Boca Raton) amidst high-end housing tracts, golf courses and country clubs. Busy, bustling streets surrounding the park only help to obscure its existence, and intensify the surprise and wonder when first entering the gardens. There is a small entrance fee, or for the enthusiast, various levels of annual membership are offered for purchase. Either way, it’s worth it.
A mile-long meandering trail winds through Roji-En, or “Garden of the Dew Drops”, which consists of six unique gardens that highlight 1000 years of Japanese garden design. There are lakes, ancient moss-covered stone sculptures, waterfalls and streams. Lush plants trained and sculpted into peaceful landscapes, meditative rock gardens, and water jugs set the tranquil Japanese scene; it’s like steeping into a hand-painted work of art. Creatively constructed wood benches and large rocks have been placed for sitting and gazing across open panoramas of water, earth and sky. Bridges carry the onlooker over rivers and streams.
Wildlife further enhances the experience at Morikami. Visitors may spot iguanas, birds, fish and turtles, especially in the waters around Turtle Island (Hint: Buy fish food at the museum… it offers a show and an excellent photo op!). And, keep your eyes open. I almost missed the most amazing creäture: a large iguana (at least 4 feet) sunning on a rock by the lake’s edge.
Plan to spend a few hours to all day admiring the gardens, touring the museum and dining at the Cornell Cafe which offers Pan-Asian cuisine. The Food Network rated the Cornell Cafe as one of the top three Museum cafes in the United States. I enjoyed grouper sushi and iced green tea while sitting on the outdoor patio admiring the pristine lake and surrounding gardens.
Another highlight is the Gulfstream Bonsai Collection with its “artful replication of mature fully grown trees that seem to convey a wisdom and experience.”
Morikami’s Musuem exhibitions rotate regularly throughout the year, and offer visitors insight into Japanese art, culture and history. There is currently (June 4 – September 15, 2013) an exhibit of Kokeshi Dolls, wood lathe-turned dolls. These unique creations epitomize the clean lines of Japanese design, yet display warm, whimsical, child-like expressions.
Culture & History
The roots of Morikami Japanese Gardens sprouted in 1904 when a community of pioneering Japanese farmers formed a farming colony in the area that is now north Boca Raton. Its original name was “Yamato”, an ancient name for Japan. Unfortunately by the 1920s, their vision of revolutionizing agriculture in Florida had failed, and the individuals moved on… except for George Sujeki Morikami. He continued to grow and distribute fruits and vegetables from his land. In the mid-1970s, George donated land to the Palm Beach County with the request it become a park to commemorate the memory of Yamato. In 1977 the museum and gardens opened as a center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida.
The Seishin-an Tea House inside the Morikami Museum offers monthly tea ceremonies, or “Sado”, for small audiences to observe the Japanese love of tea, ceremony, and ritual decor.
Morikami provides outreach programs for all ages to promote Japanese culture through “hands on” activities and presentations. Classes include bonsai instruction, flower arrangements and tea ceremony. Numerous workshops, such as sushi making and drumming, are also offered. Join & Support Morikami Japanese Gardens & Museum!
Expedition Dates: July 2013, July 2014, July 2015
Explore more of Florida’s natural world and wonders through XplorMor expedition photographs from the untamed and endangered Everglades National Park to the mysterious Coral Castle, and read insights from XplorMor Team member Julia’s journal Morikami Japanese Gardens, a Cultural Treasure in South Florida.