I’m just back from a quick trip to South Florida where I had the pleasure of visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach while staying a few nights at the luxurious new Seagate Hotel and Spa on Delray’s revitalized Atlantic Avenue. While the gardens spread over 16 acres were the major draw for me, the cultural immersion of the Morikami as a whole — including an art museum, cultural library, café, exquisite gift shop and even an authentic teahouse — is incredibly satisfying. Especially in the context of being in South Florida where, let’s face it, one doesn’t automatically think “Japanese.” In fact, I believe that the regional Japanese population is less than one percent.
But that wasn’t always so. The thirty-some year-old park is named for George Morikami who donated the land to Palm Beach County in the 1970s and honors the Yamato Colony, a Japanese farming settlement of the early 1900s, of which Morikami had been a member. Interestingly, I had just learned of the Colony’s place in local history and connection to Henry Flagler the night before while on a narrated yacht cruise aboard the Lady Atlantic on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Morikami itself is spread over 200 acres, but without question, the 16-acre “Roji-en: Gardens of the Drops of Dew,” designed by Hoichi Kurisu, are the focal point. A one-mile path around Morikami Pond meanders through six different gardens inspired by different historical periods and styles of Japanese gardening. The Journal of Japanese Gardening recognizes Roji-en as one of the top 10 Japanese gardens in Europe, North America and Australia.