Back in the 1930s and 40s, a colony of Japanese-Americans took up residence in Palm Beach County. Known as the Yamato colony, they raised pineapples, among other things. Over time, most of the settlers moved on, but George Morikami remained. He donated his property to Palm Beach County in the hope that it would help others in his new and much beloved home in America grow to appreciate his native homeland of Japan.
Today, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is one of the largest Japanese Gardens in the nation. Though not yet complete, it has already been named one of the ten best Japanese Gardens outside of Japan, and the title is well deserved.
With Morikami Lake as a centerpiece, the garden proffers waterfalls and streams, rock gardens, islands, bridges, stone lanterns, koi ponds, and a magnificent use of native vegetation incorporated in with more traditional plantings. Nearly eight-tenths of a mile of gentle paths, all meeting accessibility standards, wind through smaller adjoining gardens that represent 6 major historical periods in Japanese garden development, from 8th century Shinden Gardens to 20th century Romantic Gardens. My personal favorites are the 15th century Late Rock Garden, totally abstract in nature with raked gravel representing water (typical Zen), and the 16th century Flat Garden, which combines the Zen aesthetic with expansive views across Morikami Lake.
The old museum is a beautiful house with wide verandas and great interactive exhibits about Japanese culture, as well as specific information on the Yamato Colony. The new museum houses changing exhibits, an auditorium, classrooms, a library, a gift shop, and the delightful Cornell Cafe, which serves traditional Japanese fare on a patio overlooking the garden.
Special events and classes, many of which are free with museum entrance, add to the learning aspect of the Morikami.
As beautiful and inspiring as the gardens are, the staff is sometimes a little snippy (so typical of the Boca Raton/Delray Beach area), and mailings to membership are frequently up to a week late in announcing special events. Still, a membership entitles you to unlimited free admission, and a short while in the Zen Garden makes that pushy little admissions clerk fade away into the background......