A Tranquil Japanese Garden in Florida

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A Tranquil Japanese Garden in Florida

Hotei God of Happiness Statue at Morikami Japanese Garden in FLorida
Hotei: Resident God of Happiness

Have you visited a Japanese garden?

If you haven’t, I highly recommend it! With COVID and all the other issues in our world today (systemic racism & inequality, for example), stress is a major player in our daily lives.

Whether you are traveling or looking for something to do in your own area, a Japanese garden is always a good choice. The thought that goes into a Japanese garden manifests a serenity like no other. 

Just take it in, breathe, and enjoy! Your stress will melt away.

stone lantern with bamboo Japanese garden in Florida
Mindfulness is at home in a Japanese garden...

Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens

If you appreciate the aesthetic of Japan, then you will love this Japanese garden in Florida! The museum is great too!

Unfortunately, we did not allow enough time to see it all. I am gutted about this, so make sure you carve out ample time to enjoy it. It is well worth it!

Located in Delray Beach, Florida, the property consists of a museum, tea house, cafe, six gardens, and a gift store.

They also offer educational programs about various forms of Japanese culture like bonsai and ikebana.

There are annual Lantern and New Year’s Festivals, too. So, make sure you check out their events calendar if you are traveling to Florida.

Morikami History

This was my first trip to South Florida, so I had no idea there was a connection to Japan there or that there would be such a beautiful Japanese garden in Florida.

In the early 1900s, Japanese farmers settled in South Florida to provide new agricultural techniques and crops to the area. The Yamato Colony grew pineapples and later winter vegetables. Unfortunately, their efforts were not terribly successful, and many returned to Japan. 

pinapple mural Delray Beach
Pineapple mural commemorating the crop brought in by the Japanese farmers (Delray Beach, Florida)

Only a few remained in 1942 (WWII) when the US government took 6,000 acres from the settlers to be used as a military base. The Japanese people living in the United States during the war years were treated reprehensibly by the government.

However, George Sukeji Morikami stayed and was successful. In the 1970s, he donated his land to Palm Beach County, and the museum and gardens were established in 1977.

Museum Galleries

Exhibitions in the galleries rotate and include a wide variety of cultural objects, art, and collections. This is an excellent way to learn more about Japanese art and culture.

During our visit, we explored Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion through Art and Science (May 8, 2021 to September 19, 2021). It showcased an amazing group of pieces by Iwasaki Tsuneo.

I really took my time here (admittedly, I don’t always take as much time as I should) looking closely at the art and reading about the artist and the meaning behind his works.

It was a really beautiful and thought-provoking exhibit.

Mandala of Evolution by Tsuneo
Detail of Mandala of Evolution by Tsuneo

I had never before seen art like this, and it was truly amazing. Tsuneo takes verses from the Buddhist text, the Heart Sutra, and forms them into various images as part of a larger artwork.

Hand copying Buddhist scripture is called shyakyō (also shakyo). This is a method of devotion and brings enlightenment.

However, Tsuneo takes it a step further by artfully arranging the scripture of the sutra the way he does.

Buddhist scripture Heart Sutra
About the Heart Sutra
Baby Buddha by Tsuneo
Baby Buddha by Tsuneo
Detail Climbing Out of Hell by Tsuneo
Detail of Climbing Out of Hell by Tsuneo
INformation about Climbing Out of Hell
Museum Information about Climbing Out of Hell by Tsuneo

Tsuneo’s Creations

In one example, the characters form an impressive snaphot of forked lightning, and in another, a rope out of hell.

In the photos below, you can see how Tsuneo created a five-tiered pagoda. Interestingly, the artist took painstaking calculations to ensure that the pagoda and the scripture were exact and complete.

I really appreciate his precision and artistry, but that is way too much math for me! The pieces are stunning, though. I could have looked at his art for hours.

Full length Pilgrimage to Pagoda by Tsuneo
Full length image of Pilgrimage to Pagoda by Tsuneo
Information about Pilgrimage to Pagoda by Tsuneo
Museum information about Pilgrimage to Pagoda by Tsuneo
Gold Buddha in Pagoda
Detail of Pilgrimage to Pagoda by Tsuneo
Zen Japanese garden in Florida just outside the museum
Zen garden in the museum courtyard

The Gardens

This Japanese garden in Florida is named Roji-en: the Garden of the Drops of Dew. (Must be referring to all that humidity–LOL). Although it was drizzling a little when we were there, it didn’t diminish the beauty of the garden.

Hoichi Kurisu designed six distinctive gardens within Morikami’s park-like grounds.  I could have walked around for hours here because it is so tranquil and soul nourishing. Sadly, we only saw about half of the park.

Lake Japanese Garden in Florida
A drizzly day...

About Roji-en, Kurisu says it best:

“…little by little, we are encouraged to lay aside the chaos of a troubled word and gently nurture the capacity within to hear a more harmonious, universal rhythm…”

While it’s not exactly forest bathing, walking around these gardens has the same effect!

Morikami Bonsai Collection
Morikami Bonsai Collection

Bonsai Exhibition

The Morikami Bonsai Collection is really impressive! It reminds me of the Emperor’s bonsai collection at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Both collections showcase nature combined with art.

In fact, the Morikami exhibit is one of only three collections named a World Bonsai Friendship Federation Cooperation Center. So, if bonsai is your thing, this exhibit should not be missed!

tall bonsai
Morikami Bonsai Collection
wide bonsai
Morikami Bonsai Collection

The Details

Website: morikami.org

Address: 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach, Florida

Phone: 561-495-0233

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm (Closed Mondays & Holidays)

Cornell Cafe: Tuesday – Sunday 11 am to 3 pm

Seishin-an Tea House: Watch a Japanese Tea Ceremony on some Saturdays

Seishin-an Tea House at Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden in Florida
Seishin-an Tea House

Look Within: More Gardens

I have written a few other posts about some fabulous gardens. Be sure to click the links to read further:

Visit the Japanese Meiji Jingu garden in Tokyo from May to June to see 1500 irises in bloom.

If irises are your thing, there is a garden to visit in Oregon with fields of gorgeous color: Schreiner’s Iris Garden. They have a 10-acre display garden that is the prettiest I’ve ever seen!

For fields of tulips, take a look at the Portland Tulip Festival.

A Place to Stay

If you need accommodation nearby, I recommend:
Booking.com

Don’t forget to pin for later!

pinterest graphic for tranquil japanese garden in Florida
pinterest image buddha

Until next time…

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