Explore Morikami Gardens: From Miami to Japan in Just An Hour

by | Mar 12, 2024 | Things To Do | 0 comments

Ever wondered how a simple stroll through a garden could do wonders for your well-being? Imagine a place where every step brings a new sense of peace and every breath in fills you with tranquility. Welcome to the Morikami Gardens, a slice of paradise that offers more than just a visual feast.

What if I told you that over 450 people have found a unique form of therapy among the lush landscapes of Morikami? This isn’t just any garden visit; it’s a journey towards healing and discovery. Stick around, and I’ll unveil the secrets of how Morikami Gardens can transform your visit into an experience of therapeutic rejuvenation.

The Florida Japan Connection

Visiting Morikami from Miami, I couldn’t help but dive into the rich tapestry of history intertwining Florida and Japan. This relationship, over a century old, begins with a bold experiment and a dream of agricultural revolution.

Yamato Colony: A Pioneering Venture

In the early 1900s, Jo Sakai, fresh off the academic presses of New York University, journeyed back to his homeland in Miyazu, Japan. His purpose? To assemble a team of pioneering farmers poised to transform Florida’s agricultural landscape. By 1904, this group settled in northern Boca Raton, birthing the Yamato Colony on lands provided by the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad.

However, the dream was bigger than the reality they faced. Despite their efforts, the results of their agricultural experiments were largely disappointing. The Yamato Colony, which never expanded beyond 30 to 35 individuals, struggled to achieve its lofty goals. The harsh realization of unsustainable farming practices led to its gradual decline. By the 1920s, the community disbanded, scattering across the United States or returning to Japan.

Morikami: Preserving the Legacy

Fast forward to the mid-1970s, and we meet George Sukeji Morikami, one of the few remaining settlers. His extraordinary gesture of donating his land to Palm Beach County was driven by the desire to preserve the memory of the Yamato Colony. Today, this land is the site of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

Visiting Morikami from Miami offers a serene and beautiful journey into this memory. The museum and gardens celebrate the enduring Florida-Japan connection, featuring sixteen acres of authentic Japanese gardens. Apart from the picturesque landscapes, visitors can explore rotating exhibitions of Japanese art, an authentic teahouse, a museum store, an award-winning café, and enjoy year-round cultural programming. It’s a living testament to Japanese culture and a legacy of the ambitious Yamato Colony settlers.

A Bridge Between Cultures

For me, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens represent more than just a historical footnote. They serve as a vibrant bridge between cultures, honoring the past while enriching the present. The gardens, recognized among the finest outside Japan, are not just a nod to the settlers’ dreams but a flourishing embodiment of their resilience and spirit.

George Morikami

In the lush expanse of Palm Beach County lies a testament to cultural resilience and the beauty of cross-cultural friendship. At the heart of this story is George Morikami, a name that not only marks the land but also encapsulates an enduring legacy. Born in Miyazu, Japan, George Morikami ventured to Florida as part of the Yamato Colony, a pioneering group seeking agricultural opportunities. Yet, it’s what he did after the colony’s decline that truly set him apart and laid the groundwork for the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens we cherish today.

After World War II, the landscape of the Yamato Colony had dramatically changed, and George Morikami found himself as the sole remaining member in Delray Beach. Unwavering in his love for the community he had come to call home, Morikami made a historic gesture as he proposed donating his land to the City of Delray Beach. When the city declined, Palm Beach County accepted, marking the beginning of what would become a sprawling 188.5-acre park in his name. This donation wasn’t just land; it was a bridge between cultures, a peace offering, and a testament to Morikami’s belief in unity and mutual respect.

The initial museum opened in 1977, housed in what’s now known as the Yamatokan with the principal museum building opening its doors in 1993. The creation of the Roji-en Gardens began in the same year, evolving over time into six distinct gardens each reflecting a different historical period and style of Japanese gardening. It’s fascinating how the gardens serve not only as a botanical wonder but also as a living history book, narrating the evolution of Japanese landscape art.

The Morikami Park itself offers more than just a tranquil escape. With one picnic pavilion, six smaller picnic shelters, and a playground, it caters to families looking for a serene day out. The park’s significance is further deepened with the Challenger Astronaut Memorial and the Yamato Pioneer Memorial, standing as somber reminders of human endeavor and resilience.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is an adventure I often find myself embarking on, especially when seeking a tranquil escape from the fast-paced life. Nestled in the lush landscapes of Palm Beach County, this exquisite site offers a journey through the rich history and culture of Japan, without having to leave the sunny climes of Florida. It’s particularly convenient for those like me, residing in Miami, looking for a unique day trip that promises both relaxation and enlightenment.

The Heart of the Gardens: A Journey Through Time

The moment I set foot in the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, I was transported into a world that deftly bridges the past and present of Japanese culture. The gardens, known as Roji-en, are a breathtaking collection that showcases six distinct periods of Japanese garden design. Each garden is a living exhibit, narrating the story of Japan’s historical and aesthetic evolution. I find myself meandering from the early Shinden gardens, with their serene water features and careful plant placements, to the modern Heisei gardens that present a more contemporary interpretation of Japanese landscaping ideals.

Cultural Festivals: A Celebration for All Senses

One of the highlights of visiting Morikami, especially from Miami, is the chance to immerse in the lively Japanese festivals held throughout the year. The Oshogatsu New Year’s celebration in January kick-starts the festival calendar with vibrant traditional activities and delicious food. By April, the Hatsume Fair marks the beginning of spring with martial arts demonstrations and workshops that I find both educational and entertaining. However, during the Lantern Festival in October, inspired by Japan’s traditional Obon celebration, that truly captivates my heart. Witnessing hundreds of lanterns gently floating across the central lake after sunset is a magical experience, reminding me of the beauty of shared human moments.


When I first heard about the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, I was instantly fascinated. Nestled about 25 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, in the vibrant City of Delray Beach, this cultural gem offers an experience unlike any other. For those interested in visiting Morikami from Miami, it’s a scenic drive that rewards you with a blend of history, art, and nature.

The origins of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens trace back to an ambitious project initiated by Jo Sakai in 1905. Sakai led a group of pioneering farmers to a section of Boca Raton with a vision of revolutionizing the farming industry. They named their farming colony Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. Unfortunately, their farming endeavors didn’t pan out as expected. By the 1920s, the community, which consisted of 30 to 35 people, disbanded. Most members chose to either relocate within the United States or return to Japan. However, George Morikami, the last remaining member of the Yamato Colony, decided to stay.

In a turn of heartfelt generosity, George Morikami donated his Delray Beach farm to Palm Beach County in 1973, intending for it to be used as a park. Four years later, this dream materialized with the opening of the Morikami Museum’s first building, Yamatokan, fashioning it after a Japanese villa. This initial structure featured two significant exhibits: “The Yamato Colony: Pioneering Japanese in Florida” and “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child.” These exhibits not only highlighted the history of the pioneering Yamato Colony but also provided immersive cultural insights into Japan, making the museum a unique destination for visitors from all over, including Miami.

The expansion of the museum saw the addition of the main building, which now houses three exhibits, a 225-seat theater, a tea house, classrooms, a research library, a store, and the Cornell Cafe. The museum’s dedication to promoting Japanese arts and culture is evident through its collection, which encompasses more than 7,000 artifacts.


When I first heard about the Morikami Museum, nestled within the serene expanse of the Morikami Gardens, I knew I had to visit. For anyone making the trip from Miami or nearby, it’s a venture into a world where history, art, and nature intertwine beautifully. The museum, an island of tranquility and cultural richness, offers a journey through time and a glimpse into the Japanese influence on South Florida.

A Journey Through Time

Walking through the museum’s doors, I was immediately struck by the breadth of its collections. Each exhibit tells a story of the Yamato Colony, the pioneering Japanese farmers led by Jo Sakai in the early 1900s. Despite its eventual disbandment, the spirit and contributions of the Colony live on through George Morikami’s generosity and vision. He donated his land to Palm Beach County, leading to the museum’s founding in 1977. Here, artifacts and photographs weave a narrative that’s both educational and deeply personal.

Artifacts and Exhibits

The museum’s artifacts range from traditional Japanese tools and clothing to contemporary art. Each piece holds a story, offering insights into the daily lives, traditions, and artistic endeavors of the Japanese community in South Florida. What caught my eye was the diversity of the collections, reflecting the multifaceted aspects of Japanese culture, from tea ceremonies to samurai armor.

Engaging with Culture

Perhaps what makes the Morikami Museum truly special is its commitment to not just showcasing culture but also engaging visitors with it. Throughout the year, the museum hosts festivals like Oshogatsu to celebrate the New Year, Hatsume Fair to mark the arrival of spring, and the Lantern Festival in honor of the Obon tradition. These events aren’t just about observation; they invite participation. Whether it’s releasing a lantern into the lake, watching a drum performance, or joining in an interactive dance, there’s a tangible connection to be made with the culture.

Visiting Morikami from Miami transformed into an adventure I’d recommend to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and its historical roots in Florida. The museum doesn’t just preserve artifacts; it keeps the spirit of the Yamato Colony alive, celebrating its legacy through art, festivals, and a connection to nature that’s palpable in the surrounding gardens. The visit served as a poignant reminder that true appreciation of culture goes beyond observation—it’s about engagement, understanding, and celebration.


When I embarked on my trip to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, I knew I was in for a treat, but nothing quite prepared me for the sheer tranquility and beauty of Roji-en. Designed by the renowned Hoichi Kurisu, Roji-en, or the Gardens of the Drops of Dew, comprises six distinct gardens that span across historical periods of Japan. For those considering visiting Morikami from Miami, the drive is well worth it, as this incredible site offers a serene escape into historical Japanese garden designs.

Shinden Garden – A Heian Period Inspiration

The journey begins with the Shinden Garden, inspired by the luxurious gardens of the Heian period. With its lakes and islands designed to be admired from a boat, it’s easy to see how these landscapes were intended for the Japanese nobility. The idea of cruising through such meticulously designed beauty, imagining the reflection of the moon on the water, gives a glimpse into a bygone era of elegance and peace.

Paradise Garden – A Spiritual Oasis

Next, the Paradise Garden represents the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, designed as spiritual havens that symbolize Buddhist Heaven. Walking through this garden, I could sense the deep serenity and contemplation it encourages. The historical significance, combined with the spiritual ambiance, makes this section a particularly moving experience.

Early Rock and Karesansui Gardens – Zen Embodied

As I ventured further, the Early Rock and Karesansui Gardens, both from the Muromachi period, showcased the early and true Zen garden styles. These gardens were designed not just for aesthetic pleasure but for deep meditation and reflection. The stark beauty and simplicity of the Karesansui gardens, with their carefully arranged rocks and sand, evoke a sense of inner peace and mindfulness, embodying the Zen principle of simplicity.

Hiraniwa and Modern Romantic Gardens – Bridging History and Modernity

Completing my garden journey, the Hiraniwa Garden, a flat garden that symbolizes the transition to modern garden designs, and the Modern Romantic Garden, offer a contrast between historical inspiration and contemporary interpretations of Japanese gardens. These gardens blend traditional elements with modern aesthetics, illustrating the evolving nature of Japanese garden design.

Visitor Tips

When planning a visit to the serene Morikami Gardens, there’s a bundle of things I’ve learned that can make the experience even more enjoyable. Whether you’re journeying from nearby or visiting Morikami from Miami, these tips are designed to enhance your visit.

Before You Go

  • Check the Weather: Florida’s weather can be unpredictable. Pack an umbrella or raincoat just in case, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: You’ll do quite a bit of walking, so comfortable footwear is a must. Those gardens are vast and beautiful, and you wouldn’t want sore feet to cut your exploration short.
  • Camera Ready: Morikami is a photographer’s dream. From the tranquil gardens to the architectural beauty, there’s no shortage of Instagram-worthy shots. Make sure your camera or phone is charged.

During Your Visit

  • Start Early: Especially if you’re visiting Morikami from Miami, get an early start. It’s about an hour’s drive, and starting early helps you beat the crowd and the heat.
  • Guided Tours: Check if there are guided tours available during your visit. They offer incredible insights into the history and culture reflected within the gardens and museum.
  • Stay Hydrated: Florida’s heat can sneak up on you. There are water fountains scattered around, but I always recommend bringing a water bottle.
  • Explore Every Corner: From the historical Yamato-kan building to the modern exhibits and the expansive gardens, there’s much to see. The Roji-en garden itself, inspired by various historical periods of Japanese garden design, is a highlight not to be missed.
  • Picnicking: If you fancy a picnic, there’s one main pavilion and several smaller shelters. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors. Just remember to pack your food, as the options available on-site can be limited.
  • Check the Event Calendar: Morikami hosts numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year. Timing your visit with these events can provide a deeper insight into Japanese culture.
  • Respect the Space: While exploring, always remember that Morikami is not just a park but a place of cultural significance. Respect the spaces, and don’t pick plants or disturb the wildlife.

Directions From Miami

When I decided to spend a day at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, figuring out the directions from Miami was my first step. Let me share this journey with you, as it’s quite straightforward and absolutely worthwhile if you’re considering visiting Morikami from Miami.

The Route I Took

I found that the most direct way to Morikami Gardens starts on the I-95 North. This interstate is a major artery through Miami, so it’s easy to hop on from various points across the city. I continued on I-95 North for about 50 miles, which took me roughly an hour, depending on the traffic. This route is pretty scenic, especially as you pass through areas like Fort Lauderdale. It’s a good idea to check for any potential traffic delays before you embark, as this can affect your travel time significantly.

Transitioning to Local Roads

After the stretch on the I-95, the next step involves taking the exit toward Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach. I turned right onto Linton Boulevard and proceeded west for a couple of miles. One thing to keep in mind during this segment of the journey is the frequent changes in speed limits âs they tend to drop as you approach more densely populated areas, so staying vigilant helps avoid any unwanted surprises.

The Final Stretch

Following Linton Boulevard, I turned left onto Jog Road, with Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens being just a short drive away. The entrance to Morikami is hard to miss, thanks to its distinctive architecture that seems to whisk you away from Florida and into Japan. I parked in the spacious lot, eager to start my exploration.

Before You Go

Here are a couple of quick tips I found helpful:

  • Check the Weather: South Florida weather can be unpredictable. It’s a good idea to look at the forecast to ensure your visit isn’t hampered by rain.
  • Plan Your Visit: I made sure to check Morikami’s official website for any special events or exhibits that might have been happening. This enriched my experience, giving me unique insights into Japanese culture.

Why it’s worth the trip

Visiting Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is an experience that stays with you long after you’ve left. It’s not just about soaking in the beauty of the gardens or exploring the rich history and culture through its exhibits. It’s about connecting with a part of the world that’s both ancient and ever-evolving. Whether you’re marveling at the tranquility of the Gardens of the Drops of Dew or participating in the vibrant Lantern Festival, there’s something deeply moving and educational to be found here. And with the practical tips in mind, like wearing comfy shoes and checking the event calendar, you’re set for a day that’s as smooth as it is enriching. Trust me, the journey from Miami or wherever you’re coming from is more than worth it for this unique blend of nature, art, and culture. Don’t forget to respect the space and immerse yourself fully in the experience. You won’t regret it!

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