Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, with its unique gardens and collections, is one of Palm Beach County’s most treasured cultural attractions.
Back in 1904, an NYU graduate named Jo Sakai took a trip back to his native Japan. When he returned to the United States, he came with a group of farmers intending to revolutionize farming techniques in Florida. When they arrived in South Florida, they created a farming colony called Yamato (an ancient word that means "Japan").
Unfortunately, Yamato had limited success. After 15-20 years, the colony members gave up. Each of them eventually made their way back to Japan. Although the farming cooperative failed, its legacy lived on.
The museum opened in 1977 to revive a sense of Japanese culture in South Florida. The original museum building is called Yamato-kan, which pays homage to Sakai's farming colony. Yamato-kan is a Japanese-style villa with an open courtyard and rock garden. Inside, the building houses a permanent exhibition honoring the original Yamato colony from over 100 years ago. It also has a permanent installation called "Japan Through the Eyes of a Child," which gives visitors an interactive look at modern Japanese culture.
A newer building opened in 1993 now serves as the main museum. It contains three galleries, a 225-seat theater, classrooms, and an authentic tea house with lakeside terraces.
The museum has over 7,000 Japanese pieces and artifacts. One of the larger collections is an authentic 500-piece set of ceremonial tea items.
Morikami is home to a 16-acre garden with winding paths, a large bonsai collection, and various wildlife. The gardens are considered an outdoor extension of the museum. According to the mastermind behind the gardens, each specific area is meant to express the essence of a sister garden in Japan, while melding into one cohesive design.
If 16 acres isn't enough, there's also a 200-acre park with trails, an expansive pine forest, and areas to have a picnic.
The gardens are open Tuesday–Sunday from 10am–5pm. They are closed on Mondays and major holidays.
Cover image courtesy of Morikami Museum.