Hidden Bay resident Nathalie Martel is graciously providing excerpts from her travel blog freedomtourtravel.com about Florida attractions.
Visiting the Morikami Gardens
The Morikami Gardens span over 16 acres and are an excellent place to go for a stroll or to take some photos. Hanging out and enjoying the scenery made us reminisce about the beautiful parks in Kyoto and Tokyo. A little bit of Japan right here in South Florida!
Before getting started, we had a tasty bento box at the Japanese restaurant (Cornell Café) on site (open for lunch until 3pm). Worth a stop, and you can enjoy your meal while overlooking the large koi pond and the park from their raised terrace at the entrance. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. Try the iced greed tea, great on a hot summer day!
We were surprised to learn that at the turn of the 20th century there was a community of Japanese farmers in Boca Raton, Florida. The Yamato Colony experiment was the idea of Jo Sakai, a Japanese man who recruited settlers from his hometown of Miyazu, Japan. The goal was to establish a Japanese agricultural colony in Florida. For some time, the colonists farmed pineapples, but unfortunately following an epidemic of Pineapple blight that destroyed the crops in 1908 and the fact that they could no longer compete with the cheaper priced pineapples from Cuba many returned to Japan or moved elsewhere in the United States. The rest lost their land when the government confiscated it in 1942 for military purposes.
The only Japanese settler that remained in the area after World War II was George Morikami. In 1970 he donated his farmland to Palm Beach County with the intent of preserving it as a park and honoring the memory of the Yamato Colony.
Morikami Japanese Gardens
Hoichi Kurisu is the artist behind the design of the Roji-en which means the Garden of the Drops of Dew. The park includes six distinct gardens that were inspired by some famous gardens in Japan. However, they are unique in their own way.
The garden is setup with a nice easy walking path (wheelchair and stroller accessible) which goes around the lake and takes you to various parts of the gardens. You can get an audio guide, or you can use your smartphone for a mobile-guided tour at www.morikami.org/tour. The path is one mile long, and each of the gardens represents a different Japanese garden style, basically a trip through time from the 9th to the 20th centuries. Traditional rock gardens, bamboo forests, flowering bushes and artistically trimmed bushes and trees, all with the backdrop of the beautiful lake, small waterfalls and rushing streams makes for some beautiful pictures. You’ll get a map when you enter, and we encourage you to take your time. I bet you can come many times a year and see different things in bloom year-round.
We particularly enjoyed the bridges and picked up some fish food to throw into the ponds, for both the fish and the bale of turtles. We even saw a baby alligator that showed some interest. Hmm, where’s mama?
There was a delightful bonsai tree exhibit with one bonsai dating back to the 1600s, amazing to see. There was also a replica of a traditional house with exhibits showing the history of the Japanese in the Boca Raton area. At the time of our visit, there was an additional exhibition of kites showing some interesting examples of hand painted kites.
Opening hours and admission fees
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is open from 10am to 5pm but closed on Mondays, and on holidays. Entrance was $15 ($9 for kids, $13 for seniors and military). You can also become a member for $60 which goes to help support the park. Your membership will also get you in for free and give you discounts at the Cornell Café (open from 11am to 3pm). Additionally, the facilities and site can be rented out for private events, see their website for more details: Here (https://morikami.org)