The Morikami: Travel to Japan without leaving Palm Beaches

Ever wanted to experience the serenity of a stroll through a pristine traditional Japanese garden? How about the heart-pounding excitement of a taiko drum performance – or the wonder of a spectacular large-scale indoor wall exhibit?
Look no further than the famous Morikami Museum and Delray Beach Japanese Gardens, a cultural treasure that offers visitors the chance to do all this and more. With ever-changing exhibits, classes, and special events, there’s always something new to see at this famous attraction.
Here are five reasons to put a trip to Morikami at the top of your to-do list:

1. History

Did you know that Yamato is an old name of Japan? Established by a group of young Japanese pioneers in the early 1900s who arrived in the area we now know as North Boca Raton, Yamato Settlement was once full of hope for a bright agricultural future. But the colony’s agricultural efforts ultimately proved fruitless, and one by one nearly all the working-class families moved or returned to Japan. In the mid-1970s, one of the aging settlers who remained – Sukeji “George” Morikami – donated his land to Palm Beach County to create a park to preserve the legacy of the Yamato Settlement. That dream became the Morikami Japanese Museum and Gardens, which opened in 1977 and is currently celebrating its 45th anniversary.and year. Today, the Morikami remains the only museum in the United States dedicated to living Japanese culture, with gardens recognized internationally as some of the finest outside of Japan.

2. The Gardens

Over 16 acres of lush, pristine Japanese gardens await you at Morikami. Designed by legendary international landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Morikami Gardens draw inspiration from traditional garden designs and renowned gardens of Japan. Appointed Roji-en: Dewdrop Garden, the garden’s winding path takes visitors on a journey through six distinct garden designs dating from the Heian period to the 9th century. Traveling through the landscape styles of history, visitors discover everything from gardens meant to be seen by boat to those meant to be explored on foot. The rockery styles that were originally perfected in Zen Buddhist temples are beautifully contemplative, as are the impressive collection of Morikami bonsai trees and the Morikami Falls, under which colossal brightly colored koi fish congregate to rest. feast on fish food discarded by visitors. Don’t miss the turtles sunning themselves on Kameshima, or “Turtle Island”, believed to represent longevity in East Asian folklore, or Hotei, the garden’s resident god of happiness whose near presence of the Yamato-kan Bridge is believed to bring joy to all who notice it.

Morikami Garden

3. The museum and the exhibitions

With a permanent collection of historical artifacts dating from the first century AD to the present day, the museum’s galleries also house a busy schedule of lively exhibits of Japanese art and artifacts. Showcasing Japan’s rich and diverse culture, exhibits include the upcoming large-scale mural installation Beyond the Wall: Visions of the Asian Experience in America (May 7, 2022 – September 25, 2022), which features the work of dynamic young contemporary artists Boy Kong, Casey Kawaguchi, Elena Øhlander, Hiromi Mizugai Moneyhun and JUURI. All artists of Japanese or Asian American descent who explore their cultural heritage and identities through their work, the exhibition features striking and powerful murals on unconventional surfaces such as wood panels and bamboo mats that are guaranteed to inspire and provoke conversation. The museum has exciting plans for future exhibits of some of its permanent exhibits, including those that tell the story of its founder and the Yamato Colony. And who can forget the museum shop? With an ever-changing assortment of distinctive souvenirs, delicious curiosities, Japanese snacks, jewelry, and clothing, it’s a boutique that begs to be seen and purchased.

Noi Fish at Morikami Gardens
Courtesy of Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

4. Festivals and classes

Long known for its spectacular festivals such as the Lantern Festival, the Hatsume Anime Spring Fair, and the Oshogatsu New Year Celebration, the Morikami has reduced its special event capacity in recent years. But that doesn’t mean the fun has stopped; far from there. With bold and unforgettable events such as Miami City Ballet’s recent immersive pop-up performance To Florida, with love – which featured professional dancers dancing against the backdrop of gardens, followed by a Q&A session with acclaimed choreographer Ariel Rose – Morikami events are louder and more captivating than ever. The Morikami also offers an abundance of ongoing cultural classes for all ages, such as taiko drumming, sushi making, and Ikebana flower arranging. Students can immerse themselves in the art of Japanese charcoal ink calligraphy, or sumi, and learn the art of Kokedama, the Japanese art of growing plants in a ball of dirt covered with moss. Also note lively cultural demonstrations such as the sounds of the 7th-century Japanese Koto string instrument or the peace of a Japanese tea ceremony in the museum’s expansive theater.

Aerial view of Morikami Garden
Courtesy of Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

5. Gastronomy

Voted one of the nation’s top three museum dining destinations by the Food Network, Morikami’s award-winning Cornell Café offers a delicious Pan-Asian menu and an alfresco dining experience with panoramic views. Feast your senses on a classic bento box of fresh sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken and salmon and other savory bites, and be sure to save room for vanilla crepe cake, a delicate dessert made layers of divine vanilla creme sandwiched between layers of light and savory crepe. A range of Boba tea flavors, or sweet milk iced teas, are also on the menu, including mango, taro and sweet mango green tea. Speaking of tea: the Morikami is home to the Seishin-an Tea House, a tea house where visitors can take small private lessons to learn how to observe Japanese Sado, or “the way of tea”. Incorporating precise etiquette and choreographed movements, the ancient ritual is meant to engage all the senses and invoke a serene sense of harmony among all who experience it.

Morikami Garden
Courtesy of Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Ready to plan your visit? The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens are located at 4000 Morikami Park Road in Delray Beach. The hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Mondays and public holidays). Admission is free for annual members, $15/adults, $13/seniors and military, $11 college students, $9 children (6-17) and free for ages 5 and under. Call (561) 495-0233 or visit www.morikami.org.

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