"Strolling through a pine forest or bamboo grove, viewing the rock formations, arrangement of plants, and cascading waterfalls, pausing to ponder the quiet surface of the lake and the shoreline - little by little we are encouraged to lay aside the chaos of a troubled world and gently nurture the capacity within to hear a more harmonious, universal rhythm…This is the tremendous power the Japanese gardens at Morikami Park hold for us." - Hoichi Kurisu, Master Garden Designer of Roji-en.
Driving south on the busy Florida Turnpike, an hour before reaching Miami, the sign for Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens flashed into our vision. There was no question we were going to make a detour. The family was down in the sunshine state taking a week-long break from the winter misery that seemed to have gripped the north. A walk through Japanese gardens would be a perfect antidote.
What we found was a lavish 16-acre spread of inspiring natural beauty and a very interesting but little known history of Japanese immigrants in Florida. But first the garden. Called Roji-en: Garden of Drops of Dew, the layout of the garden is divided into six distinct sections that reflect the evolving styles in Japanese history, right from the Shinden Garden (Heian Period, c. 9th - 12th centuries) when the Japanese nobility adopted the Chinese style of creating lakes and islands that were meant to be viewed from a boat. However, the sections are laid out in a way that they merge into each other seamlessly.
You can sit here and listen to the bamboo knock against each other in the breeze. It reminds you of another sound that is evoked Japanese tea ceremony that of the water boiling in the iron urn described as wind in the pines.
The garden has many beautiful plants both flowering and non-flowering. They are not marked because, as it is pointed out, this is not a botanical garden. The purpose of this garden is to be restorative, free from the potential distraction of signs and labels, barring just a few that help visitors better understand the gardens.
On the way to the Contemplation Pavilion.
This is the Nelson Family Memorial Garden, dedicated to the memories of Norman Nelson and his sons Dan and Bob who tended to Morikami's landscaping and bonsai during the museum's early years.
The morning dew -
- John Naka
The Modern Romantic Garden.
We exit the gardens from Nan-mon or the "South Gate" made of rounded cypress beams.
The Morikami Museum is located inside a traditional Japanese house at the southern end of the gardens. This is where you can learn about George Sukeji Morikami and Yamato Colony - the story behind these beautiful gardens.
In the early 1900s, a group of Japanese farmers arrived in what is now northern Boca Raton and formed an agricultural colony they called Yamato - an ancient name for Japan. Around the same time another Yamato Colony was established in Merced, California for the purposes of agriculture. While in California the colony tenuously survived the war and the vicissitudes of the farming business, in Florida it was a different story. By the beginning of the 1940s, only three Japanese households remained. Among those who remained was George Morikami. Interestingly, he managed to acquire a lot of land at the end of the war when the Japanese population faced persecution. Sadly much of the Yamato Colony land was seized by the US government.
Nevertheless, George Morimaki, a bachelor who turned into a recluse living in a mobile home later in his life, donated his land to Palm Beach county, with the wish for it to become a park to preserve the memory of the Yamato Colony. In 1977 the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens were opened realizing George Morikami's dream.
In the gallery, there is a full scale Japanese tea room where visitors on weekends can watch Japanese tea ceremony being performed. We were sad to miss this opportunity.
However, to chance upon one of the finest Japanese gardens outside of Japan quite randomly was a blessing enough. If you happen to be in this part of the country do not miss it!
PS: You can enjoy a slideshow that includes more pictures on our Youtube channel.