In the early 1900s, a group of Japanese farmers immigrated to Boca Raton to form the Yamato Colony, an agricultural community intended to introduce new farming techniques in South Florida. Unfortunately, the settlers’ attempts were unprofitable, and the group dissipated. Yet their presence ultimately led to the creation of one of Palm Beach County’s most significant cultural attractions: the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
Dedicated to propagating Japanese culture, the Delray Beach museum was built in 1977 on land donated by George Morikami, the last Yamato colonist. But it wasn’t until 2001 when the Morikami introduced its signature element: Roji-en, an oasis of six authentic Japanese gardens spread over the property’s 16 acres. Designed by landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu, each is dedicated to a period of Japanese garden design; the Paradise Garden, for instance, represents the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century concept of a Buddhist heaven on Earth, while the Karesansui Late Garden illustrates the dry landscape trend of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Free of palm trees, Roji-en is an enriching escape in South Florida that exudes a pure Japanese essence. And to Kurisu, the turn of the millennium was the perfect time to establish the tranquil gardens. “I felt modern life had many restrictions and distractions, and we were losing our true selves,” he says. “This garden should help the people to bring back really what we are, instead of being driven by outside influences. From this sense, I felt people must experience this kind of space.” Below, Kurisu shares three of his favorite—and most peaceful—spots at the Morikami.
3 Places of Peace
Don’t rush through Roji-en, but rather, stop and be still. Kurisu recommends pausing at these spots:
- Paradise Garden: Have a seat on the lone bench near the pond and enjoy the scenery. “It is most quiet, for reflection, and particularly beautiful when the pond cypress start to push new leaves out,” he says.
- Bamboo Grove: “You will hear much more of nature’s voice and feel you are in the forest,” he says.
- Hiraniwa Flat Garden: Take in the distant view of the museum and the forest on the right side Kurisu says. “Bring in these views to the garden, and enjoy the relation to the rest of nature, as oneness of nature.”
Images courtesy of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens