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The Morikami: Essence of Japan in Florida

A magical 200-acre garden where the Far East meets the South lies just beyond Palm Beach's allure of sun, sea, and glittering resorts. It's called the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and is a testament to one man's perseverance. One of the largest Japanese gardens outside of Japan, it's also a soothing destination for reflection, with a pine forest, trails, and lakes.

In 1904, Jo Sakai, a New York University graduate, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to recruit hands for farming what is now northern Boca Raton. With help from Henry Flagler's East Coast Railroad subsidiary they colonized as Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. When crops fell short, everyone left except for George Sukeji Morikami, who carried on cultivating local crops, eventually donating his land to memorialize the Yamato Colony in the mid-1970s to Palm Beach County. His dream took on a new dimension with the 1977 opening of the Morikami complex, a living monument bridging cultural understanding between Morikami's two homelands.

The original Yamato-kan building chronicles the Yamato Colony, and a 32,000-square-foot main museum that opened in 1993 has rotating exhibits with 7,000 art objects and artifacts from the permanent collection, including 200 examples of textiles and a 500-piece collection of tea-ceremony items. No visit is complete without exploring the expansive Japanese gardens that have strolling paths, a tropical bonsai collection, and lakes teeming with koi. Enjoy a demonstration of sado, the Japanese tea ceremony, in the Seishin-an teahouse (check website for schedule), learn about Japanese history in the 5,000-book library, or register in advance for classes like calligraphy, bonsai, art, and intro to sushi-making. The gift shop has some great finds for the whole family, and the Cornell Café has excellent pan-Asian fare and a relaxing terrace that overlooks the gardens.

Updated: 10-2013

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