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Traveling to Japan Without a Passport
By Tom Adkinson

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – There’s an unlikely trip to Japan in Delray Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. It is Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, a place of tranquility that lifts you out of south Florida and quietly deposits you 10,000 miles away via a complex of six gardens, two museums, a teahouse and a café serving bento boxes instead of super-sized combos.

traveling to japan
The lake at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens creates a mirror-like reflection of a footbridge between gardens. Image by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Image courtesy of Morikami Museum.

Morikami’s garden complex, named Roji-en: Garden of the Drops of Dew, is six distinct gardens inspired by famous gardens in Japan. Turn off your cellphone, relax, stroll, watch the koi and view the panorama of earth, water and sky.

“(The gardens) are an invitation to stop momentarily and ponder anew what we are, where we have been and where we are heading. My hope is that visitors will let the gardens speak to them of timeless truths and rhythms which can provide therapeutic insights for today,” said master garden designer Hoichi Kurisu.

The gardens complement two museums that are additional transports to Japan. The museums host changing exhibitions of Japanese art and artifacts through the year and house two permanent exhibitions. One explains the location’s history, and the other is especially designed for children

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A failed agricultural experiment from the early 1900s led to an unexpected garden retreat in Delray Beach decades later. Image by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

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Each of the six gardens here has its own decorative touches and special foliage. Image by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.


Special events are spread through the year. Among them:

• Hatsume Fair (April 21-22, 2018) is a Japanese spring festival with taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, games and Japanese street food.
• Sushi & Stroll (the second Friday each month May-September) is a time for a sunset walk in the gardens, taiko drumming, sake, cold beer and pan-Asian cuisine.
• Lantern Festival (third Saturday in October) is Morikami’s own version of Obon, the Buddhist-Confucian custom of paying homage to one’s ancestors, featuring lanterns floating on tranquil waters.

The history is intriguing. It is the story of the Yamato Colony, an agricultural experiment that began in 1903 so Japanese farmers could transform Florida agriculture.

The grand experiment foundered, but good did result. In the mid 1970s, one of the last remaining settlers, George Sukeji Morikami, then in his 80s, donated his land to Palm Beach County as a park to preserve the memory of the Yamato Colony. It was Morikami who bought your ticket to Japan.

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A delicate entrance sets the mood for a tranquil walk from Delray Beach to Japan. Image by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

Trip-planning resources: and

Published February 2, 2018

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