This weekend I finally got to visit a place I have been wanting to visit since I heard of it four months ago, the Morikami Japanese Garden and Museum in Del Ray Beach.
Opened in 1977, the historical park is dedicated to a small group Japanese farmers, known as the Yamato Colony, who came to Palm Beach County in the early 1900s. Initially the group grew pineapples, but when Cuban imports of the fruit became more popular they turned to winter vegetables. The Yamato Colony did not find much success, with only 30- 35 farmers in the group, by the beginning of WWII few remained.
In the the mid-1970s one of the last remaining Yamato settlers, George Sukeji Morikami donated his land to Palm Beach County to be used as a park to preserve his people's culture.
Since then Morikami has been a center for Japanese culture and arts with it's rotating exhibits, tea ceremonies, outreach programs to local schools and traditional festivals throughout the year.
The garden is about a mile long walk with flowers, waterfalls, a zen rock garden, special memorial statues, giant Buddha and a section dedicated to the many different types of bonsai trees. From small grey lizards to huge bright green iguanas, look out for reptiles along your walk. For the most part, the animals seemed completely unbothered by anyone's presence and stayed still for plenty of photos.
The Yamato-kan is Morikami's original museum and home to two permanent exhibits. One space details theYamato Colony in Florida, while the rest of the building shows what Japan is like through the eyes of a child through mock a train station, classroom, main street and home. In the middle of the entire building is a beautiful rock garden with copper rain chains, which the Japanese have been using for hundreds of years as a more pleasing water feature to closed gutters.
I really enjoyed my visit here and would definitely say it's worth the three hour drive. If I lived in the area I would become a member and visit all the time. There's a traditional Japanese restaurant in the park, which I was unable to eat at since they stop seating people at 3 p.m., that would probably serve as even more incentive for reoccurring visit.
There's also one of the best museum gift shops I've ever seen here. Pricier items include traditional kimonos for $150+, but you can also find origami paper, Asian candies and other trinkets from $1.50 - $20.
I left with a Chinese Wishing Pot for $18. According to tradition, wishes were believed to come true if they were written on a slip of paper, stored in ceramic pot and kept in a lucky place.
The park is closed Mondays and major holidays, but you can stop in Tuesday - Sundays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Adult tickets are $15, seniors $13 and children $9. For info go here: https://morikami.org/