Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
In 1904, Jo Sakai, a recent graduate of New York University, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to organize a group of pioneering farmers and lead them to what is now northern Boca Raton. With the help of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.
The Yamato Colony fell far short of its goals and by the 1920's the community, which had less than 35 individuals. The families eventually left for other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.
George Morikami remained, he was a modest farmer that cultivated local crops becoming a fruit and vegetable wholesaler. In the 1970's, Morikami was in his 80's and donated his land to Palm Beach County with the wish to preserve it as a park and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony. Together with his friends, neighbors and the Palm Beach County Department of Parks and Recreation, George’s simple dream took on a new dimension. With the opening of The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, a living monument was created, building a bridge of cultural understanding between George Morikami’s two homelands.
The grounds are beautiful, cafe delicious and the cultural center was informative.
- Family Travel
American Orchid Society - Outside Gardens
The outside plantings occupy a 3 acre site with gravel paths, elevated wooden walkways, a pond, and a host of largely unidentified specimens. The website divides the garden into about 15 sections, with detailed descriptions of the residents of each. Sadly, one does not carry a computer with them while visiting here, significant limitation. There are scattered signs, but the provided sheet of paper with flowering plants indicated is of little value. Scenic, nice to walk through, some interesting views, no benches, ultimately a disappointing visit. The carpark was not nearly empty without reason.
American Orchid Society - Baumann Greenhouse
The indoor specimens in the 4000 sq foot greenhouse are comprised of both orchids and other plantings, some surrounding water features. Some specimens are draped over a small tree killed in the 2004 hurricane. Through windows at the back of the public area, one has visual access only to the workroom where plants not in bloom are kept. The displays are changed frequently as orchids apparently bloom at different times throughout the year depending on species. Signage is extremely limited, not that the names would have meant much to a non-orchid-freak.
A selection of particularly attractive orchids has been included in the travelogue " Meet the Orchids ".
American Orchid Society
The American Orchid Society was founded in 1921, with the goal of increasing importation of orchids from Europe, making their cultivation accessible to those not members of the privileged elite, and organizing exhibits, award systems, and publications. After spending 60 years at Harvard University in Boston, the headquarters moved to a former private mansion in Palm Beach Florida. The current facility was opened in March 2001.
The first striking finding on driving in was the empty parking lot, difficult to believe with cars lined up waiting for spots at adjacent Morikami. The attractive yellow building, with a lovely grouping of bamboo ( image 2 ), was pretty much deserted and the only employee appeared to be the cashier, who reluctantly surrended the dollar senior citizane refund off the $10 admission fee.
The main building contains a gift shop, a few wall displays, and free tea with prepackaged cookies available for purchase. Through the back door one enters the Orchid Court Fountain, and then the greenhouse building or the open air gardens. Directions to the outside plantings in bloom are on a duplicated sheet of paper ( looked like an old mimeograph ) with a sketch and numbers denoting the high spots. Signage and information both in the outside gardens and the greenhouse was very minimal, many specimens without visible name plates. The whole establishment appeared a bit unkempt, a disappointment to be sure. The website has loads of pictures of speciments, none correlating with my pictures or memories.
Morikami - Featured Exhibits
Scattered throughout the garden are varied wooden and stone exhibits, mostly reproductions and interpretations, of Japanese lore.
Shishi Odoshi ( image 1 )- Deer Chaser - the sound made when bamboo strikes a rock is said to drive local pests, particularly deer, from the garden. Water flows into and fills a bamboo tube. When the weight is sufficient, the tube drops striking the rocks and empties. The tube then springs back to refill. The sound of the pipe striking the rock as it empties makes a surprisingly loud sound.
Ishidoro Stone Lantern - ( image 2 ) set at the entrance to the Yamato Island museum, this lantern was erected in 1681 and is one of the few originals on the property. It honored the memory of the fourth Tokugawa shogun Ietsuna. It has a long history, having passed to the Kan'ejii temple in Tokyo to a shipbuilder, then a ship owner in West Palm Beach Florida who donated to a south florida science museum. From there, it has found a permanent home at Morikami.
Kotohi Lantern - ( image 3 ) - this lantern tucked away in the Modern Romantic Garden is patterned after the movable bridge of a stringed instrument called a koto.
Tsukubai - (images 4 )- one of two examples of water basins placed in tea gardens to allow guests to wash up before visiting, today still frequent features of Japanese homes and buildings. Water passes through a bamboo ( naturally ) pipe into a basin, as if it were diverted from a nearby stream.
Challenger Memorial Lantern ( image 5 ) - Dedicated to the seven Challenger astronauts, including Ellison Onizuka, the first person of Asian ancestry to travel to space.
Morikami - Turtle Island
Kameshima, the Turtle Island, recalls East Asian tradition that the tortoise has a life span of 10000 years and appears in gardens as an emblem of longevity. These are generally constructed to resemble a turtle, although perhaps not very every vantage point. And of course, what turtle island would be complete without a living specimen ( image 2 ).
Morikami - Bonsai Collection
A large segment of Yamato Island is devoted to the bonsai collection, stated to be the best public display in the southeastern United States. Bonsai means 'tray planting', trees growing in a container and artistically shaped. The specimens are 10-20 years old and emphasizes species which thrive in the local climate.
Morikami - Yamato Island and the Yamato-kan
How many times have I driven on Yamato Road in Boca Raton and questioned the Japanese name for a six lane highway lined by businesses, country clubs, huge houses of worship, and upscale shopping malls. It all becomes clear at Yamato Island, site of the original Morikami museum and a garden with Japanese artifacts and a bonsai collection, set in the lake at the center of the complex.
The museum follows traditional Japanese architecture, with a central garden in the Karensansui (Late Rock Garden ) style. It features two permanent exhibits. The first, Japan Through the Eyes of a Child, is larger with typical rooms representing a schoolroom, restaurant, kitchen, bathroom, and living room.
The second is The Yamato Colony: Pioneering Japanese in Florida with pictures and printed text recalling Jo Sakai, a graduate of New York University, who returned to his hometown of Miyazu to gather a group of farmers to return to the United States with the financial aid of Henry Flagler, the owner of a major Florida railroad system of the time. Their farming colony was named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.
Morikami - Roji-en - Flat and Romantic Gardens
Hiraniwa Flat Gardens - phasing in during the 17 and 18th C, these gardens evolved from the late rock garden concept, characterized by increased use of plantings and shakkei - use of " borrowed scenery. In this garden, a stone pagoda lies behind the gravel platform ( image 1 ). This garden is particularly popular as a resting place for visitors.
Modern Romantic Gardens ( images 4,5) were the first to incorporate Western garden principles. beginning in the late 19th C. These gardens more directly depended on nature and less on abstract design and thought. Less carefully manicured, more difficult to capture on images.
Morikami - Roji-en - Early and Late Rock Gardens
Early Rock Garden ( image 1 ) -- Japanese gardens were often patterned after Chinese ink drawings rather than nature, with rocks set randomly amidst plantings, for thought and contemplation.
Late Rock Garden ( image 2 ) -- by the 15 C, landscape design switched to the Karesansui form, meaning a dry landscape. Water and plants were out and raked gravel with rocks was in. Zen Buddhist temples originated this style in Japan.
Morikami -Roji-en - Paradise Gardens
Dating to the 13-14C, these gardens were a idealization of the Pure Land, or Buddhist Heaven, prominently featuring shaped ponds, and were intended for strolling. We are reminded of the peninsula pond in Seoul by the seemingly random landscape and the shaping of the pond.
Morikami - Roji-en - Bamboo
A meandering walk through a bamboo grove offers great vistas of the Morikami complex as well as many resting places with donated benches ( images 4,5 ). Bamboo is one of three important floral emblems in Japanese art, with pine and plum. The grove is entered through the Kodai-mon (image 3 ), a cypress gate imported from Tokyo, using ancient carpentry techniques, and inspired by the impressive gates at large mansions owned by samurai during the 17-19C.
Morikami Japanese Gardens - Introduction
The Morikami Japanese Gardens is one of south Florida's premier tourist attractions and is ranked eighth in the world among gardens of its type outside Japan. The land for this cultural and historic site was given to Palm Beach County by George Morikami ( 1886-1976 ) who came to the United States in 1906 to work as a pineapple farmer. The colony of immigrants who founded the village of Yamato nearby disbanded by the early 1920's, but he stayed on and became a prosperous fruit dealer. In the early 1970's he donated eventually over 100 acres for the park and museum but died the year before it opened. The center is comprised of two museum buildings, lakes, and multiple small gardens inspired by the varied styles of Japan over a century of history. The garden is peaceful and pretty, with a well-tended gravel walk meandering along between the gardens and across the bridges. A delightful place for a two hour respite from bustling Florida.
The large museum building at the entrance opened in 1993. Fronted by a beautiful garden
(image 3) featuring the traditional triad of water, rock, and vegetation, the building houses a traditional tea house (image 2) with periodic tea ceremony demonstrations, a large collection of Japanese artifacts, and a kimono exhibit. The Cornell Cafe serving Asian inspired food is open for lunch only and was rated by the Food Network as the third best museum dining experiences in the United States. The terrace and dining room look out over the gardens and lake.
Morikami - The Roji-en Gardens - Shinden
The centerpiece of the Morikami Complex is the George and Harriet Cornell Gardens, opened in 2001, featuring six garden sites with the changes in design over a millenium of Japanese history. Along a well tended gravel pathway just short of a mile long, and with multiple benches for resting and contemplation, each garden offers a plaque with a short description of the significance of the patterns seen. The gardens are not replicas of anything in Japan, but summations and interpretations - some critics of the park complain about this, but it certainly did not bother me. A beautiful walk through lush scenery.
The first and earliest garden is the Shinden, reflecting the 9-12thC Chinese garden designs of the era, informal and non-stylized, with gardens lakes and bridges. The entrance bridge resembles the entrance bridge at Nikko and symbolizes the link between Japan and Florida provided by the museum. The departure bridge is zig-zag, apparently a classic form of the time.
For a relaxed, quiet activity, consider the Orchid Society, located right next to the Morikami Museum. They have greenhouses and open gardens with many different types of orchids, as well as a gift shop.
$8, Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00am - 4:30pm