Top Menu

Our History

Visitors are surprised to discover a century-old connection between Japan and South Florida. It is here that a group of young Japanese farmers created a community intended to revolutionize agriculture in Florida.

In 1904, Jo Sakai, a recent graduate of New York University, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to organize a group of pioneering farmers and lead them to what is now northern Boca Raton. With the help of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.

Ultimately, the results of their crop experimentation were disappointing and the Yamato Colony fell far short of its goals. By the 1920s the community, which had never grown beyond 30 to 35 individuals, finally surrendered its dream. One by one, the families left for other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.

Our Mission

Our mission at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is to provide authentic Japanese cultural experiences that entertain, educate and inspire.

Since opening in 1977, Morikami has been a center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida. With rotating exhibitions, tea ceremonies performed monthly in the Seishin-an tea house, educational outreach programs with local schools and organizations, and Japanese traditional festivals celebrated for the public several times a year, Morikami strives to spread appreciation for the living culture of Japan.

Museum

The original building, named the Yamato-kan, is modeled after a Japanese villa. It features a ring of exhibition rooms surrounding an open-air courtyard with a dry garden of gravel, pebbles and small boulders. The Yamato-kan offers a permanent exhibit chronicling the history of the Yamato Colony, a Japanese farming community in South Florida 100 years ago, as well as Japan Through the Eyes of a Child, an interactive exhibit that transports visitors to Japan, allowing them to explore contemporary Japanese culture.

The principal museum building opened in 1993 to meet popular demand for more programming, more versatile facilities, and to satisfy the needs of a growing community. The museum’s architecture is inspired by traditional Japanese design. The building features three exhibition galleries, a 225-seat theater, an authentic tea house with viewing gallery, a research library, classrooms, a museum store, the Cornell Cafe and lakeside terraces for a panoramic view while dining.

The Morikami Collections house more than 7,000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, including a 500-piece collection of tea ceremony items, more than 200 textile pieces and fine art acquisitions.

More About the Museum

Gardens

The 16 acres that surround Morikami’s two museum buildings include expansive Japanese gardens with strolling paths, resting areas, our world-class bonsai collection and lakes teeming with koi and other wildlife. The wider 200-acre park features nature trails, pine forests and picnic areas.

In 2001, Morikami completed a major garden expansion and renovation. The new gardens reflect major periods of Japanese garden design, from the eighth to the 20th century, and serve as an outdoor extension of the museum. According to the garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, each garden is intended to express the character and ideas of a unique counterpart in Japan without attempting to duplicate those gardens, and seamlessly flow together as one garden.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, with its unique gardens and collections, is one of Palm Beach County’s most treasured cultural attractions. Located in a tranquil natural setting, Morikami invites visitors to explore its many facets and discover Florida’s heritage and its connection with Japan.

More About the Gardens