Explore Morikami Gardens in Boca Raton: A Cultural Oasis

by Boca Raton Jewish News | Mar 11, 2024 | Things to Do With Families | 0 comments

Nestled on the border of Delray Beach and Boca Raton, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a hidden gem that’s been captivating visitors for years. It’s not just a place; it’s an experience that whisks you away to a serene, lush landscape inspired by the beauty of Japan.

From the moment I stepped onto the grounds, I knew I was in for something special. With its enchanting gardens, fascinating cultural exhibits, and a charming little gift shop, Morikami is a place where you can easily lose track of time. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, it’s a must-visit for anyone looking to add a touch of tranquility to their day.

Our History

Yamato Colony

When I first stumbled upon Morikami Gardens, I was intrigued by its rich tapestry of culture and history. This story begins over a century ago, with a visionary named Jo Sakai. After graduating from New York University in 1904, Sakai embarked on a journey back to his homeland in Miyazu, Japan. His mission was clear: to recruit a group of pioneering farmers and lead them to an area now known as northern Boca Raton. With the support of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they established a farming colony. They named it Yamato, an ancient term for Japan, symbolizing their hope and connection to their roots.

The ambition was grand—to revolutionize agriculture in Florida. However, despite their hard work and determination, their dreams did not materialize as planned. The community faced numerous challenges, from crop failures to economic hardships. By the 1920s, the Yamato Colony, which never grew beyond 30 to 35 individuals, began to dissolve. Members of the community slowly left, seeking opportunities elsewhere in the United States or returning to Japan. Yet, their story did not end there. It was the beginning of something extraordinary, a narrative that would eventually lead to the establishment of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

Pioneering Japanese in Florida

The sole member of the Yamato Colony to remain was George Morikami. Born in Miyazu, Japan, Morikami had become deeply attached to the land and the community he found in Florida. Following World War II, Morikami proposed donating his land to the City of Delray Beach, but the city declined. Undeterred, he found another way to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony and share Japanese culture with the world.

In 1973, Morikami donated his farm in Delray Beach to Palm Beach County, envisioning it as a park that could promote understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture. This generous act led to the opening of the Morikami Museum in 1977, housed initially in a building now known as the Yamatokan. The museum was built on a section of Morikami’s farm and has grown to include not just a museum but also expansive Japanese gardens that captivate all who visit.

The museum’s original building, Yamatokan, stands as a testament to Morikami’s vision. It’s home to two permanent exhibits: “The Yamato Colony: Pioneering Japanese in Florida,” which details the history of the Yamato Colony, and “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child,” offering visitors a unique perspective on Japanese culture.

Our Mission

When I first set foot in the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, I was struck by its serene beauty and the deep sense of peace it instilled in me. But beyond its visual appeal, I learned that it holds a mission close to my heart: to engage diverse audiences by presenting Japanese cultural experiences that educate and inspire.

Since its opening in 1977, the Morikami has been a beacon for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing how it brings to life the spirit of Japan through rotating exhibitions, monthly tea ceremonies (from October through May), and educational outreach programs with local schools and organizations. The goal has always been to spread an appreciation for the living culture of Japan, and in my experience, they’ve exceeded that goal tenfold.

The centerpiece, the Yamatokan, modeled after a Japanese villa, encapsulates the essence of traditional Japanese architecture. As I walked through, I was surrounded by exhibition rooms that narrated the story of the Yamato Colony and the visionary garden design philosophy of Hoichi Kurisu. It’s an immersive experience that transports you across the world, without ever leaving Florida.

The Morikami’s commitment to authenticity and education is clear in every pebble of its dry garden and every sip of tea in the Seishinan tea house. It’s a unique cultural jewel in Delray Beach, whose dedication to fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture is palpable with every visit. The impression it leaves on its visitors, myself included, is profound, highlighting the importance of cultural exchange and the beauty it can bring into our lives.


When I first set foot in the Morikami Museum, I was instantly transported. It wasn’t just the art that caught my eye; it was the entire atmosphere. The museum serves not only as a guardian of traditional Japanese culture but also as a bridge to contemporary interpretations, showcasing a wide range of rotating exhibitions. From delicate Japanese ceramics to vibrant textile displays, every exhibit tells a story, a testament to the museum’s commitment to educating and inspiring its visitors through a visual feast.

As I wandered through the galleries, I couldn’t help but think about the museum’s origins. Established in 1977, the Morikami Museum has grown significantly, reflecting the evolving relationship between Japan and South Florida. The historical aspect of the museum, particularly the Yamatokan, offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of the Yamato Colony pioneers. This space, designed like a traditional Japanese villa, houses artifacts and stories that seem to whisper secrets of the past, inviting a reflective exploration of the links between two distinct cultures.

One of the museum’s most notable features is its dedication to interactive and educational experiences. This isn’t just apparent in the aesthetically pleasing exhibitions but also in its hands-on workshops and cultural events. The engaging tea ceremonies, for instance, provide a profound understanding of Japanese traditions, affording visitors an intimate look at the ritualistic preparation and enjoyment of tea. It’s these moments of direct engagement that weave a deeper connection with Japanese arts and customs, enriching the museum experience beyond mere observation.

Throughout my visit to the Morikami Museum, I was continually impressed by the meticulous care and thoughtful presentation of both the permanent and temporary exhibits. It’s clear that every detail is considered, from the curation of pieces to the arrangement of spaces, all aimed at fostering an environment of learning and appreciation. This careful orchestration ensures that each visit offers a fresh perspective, enticing guests to return and explore the depths of Japanese culture time and time again.


When I first stepped into the Morikami Gardens, it was as though I’d traveled through time and space, landing in the heart of Japan’s rich historical landscape. Known as the Rojien, or Garden of the Drops of Dew, these gardens encompass a living tribute to Japan’s diverse garden designs through the ages. Each of the six distinct gardens reflects a specific era in Japanese history, and I was fascinated by how they illustrate the evolution of garden design over centuries.

The first garden I explored was the Shinden Garden, a style originating from the Heian period, which is steeped in the elegance and serenity that characterized Japanese nobility’s gardens between the 9th and 12th centuries. With its picturesque lakes and islands, reminiscent of those viewed by boat by ancient aristocrats, I couldn’t help but feel transported to a time of refined beauty and tranquility.

Next, the Paradise Garden caught my eye. This garden, inspired by the temples to the Buddha during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, represents an earthly depiction of Buddhist heaven. The harmonious blend of spiritual symbolism and natural beauty was both calming and awe-inspiring.

The Early Rock Garden, also from the Muromachi period, introduced me to the early concepts of Zen through its minimalistic approach. This garden, devoid of lush foliage yet rich in symbolic representation with its carefully placed rocks and gravel, offered a profound space for reflection and meditation.

As I meandered further, the Karesansui Garden, a true embodiment of Zen-style gardens, captivated me with its stark beauty. Designed for contemplation rather than physical exploration, this garden reminded me of the simplicity and depth of Zen principles.

The journey through Japan’s garden history wouldn’t be complete without wandering through the Hiraniwa Garden, an Edo period delight. This flat garden style merges elements of earlier rock and tea gardens, featuring charming accents like stepping stones, lanterns, and pagodas that invite strolling and discovery.

Lastly, the Modern Romantic Garden from the Meiji period offered a refreshing contrast with its blend of naturalism and Western influences. This garden felt like a celebration of modernity intertwined with traditional aesthetics, a testament to Japan’s adaptability and innovation in garden design.

Each garden in the Rojien serves as a portal to a different time and realm, showcasing the artistry and philosophy embedded in Japanese garden design throughout history.


Visiting the Morikami Gardens in Boca Raton is an experience that’s not just about seeing, but about immersing yourself in Japanese culture. Let’s dive into the different types of admission you can expect when planning your visit.

Daily Admission

When I plan my solo trips to cultural havens like the Morikami Gardens, the ease of getting in plays a big part in my day. I’m glad to share that getting your admission tickets is straightforward as they’re available right at the door on the day of your visit. The price structure is inclusive, ensuring that everyone from children to seniors can enjoy the beauty of the gardens without breaking the bank.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the admission fees:

Admission TypePrice (USD)
Adults (ages 18+)16
Seniors (65+)14
Military with ID14
College Students with ID12
Children (ages 6-17)10
Children (5 and under)Free

I always find it noteworthy that special event prices vary and there are no discounts during these times. Lastly, the museum and gardens cherish their members by offering free admission, a gesture that underlines the value of supporting cultural institutions.

Group Admission

Planning visits for larger groups, be it family gatherings or educational trips, comes with its own set of requirements. The Morikami Gardens addresses this beautifully with their group admission rates. It’s important to note that these rates apply to groups of 15 or more, which makes it a great option for schools or organizations looking to provide a unique learning experience.

The simplified rates are as follows:

Group TypePrice per Person (USD)
Adult Group15
Children’s Group9

To facilitate a smooth visit, the gardens offer detailed touring options which can be booked in advance. This isn’t just about affordability; it’s about providing structured, enriching experiences for groups keen on exploring the depths of Japanese culture through the serene beauty of the Morikami Gardens.

What stands out to me in this process is not just the thoughtfulness in pricing but the ease of access these admission policies afford to a wide range of visitors. Whether you’re planning a quiet day of reflection or an educational journey through Japanese gardens, the welcoming gates of the Morikami are open to explore, learn, and be inspired.


When planning a visit to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton, knowing the hours of operation is crucial to making the most out of your trip. Here’s what you need to know:

General Museum Hours

I’ve found that the museum’s general visiting hours are quite accommodating, allowing visitors to explore the extensive exhibits and gardens at their leisure. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. This schedule gives you ample time to delve into the rich Japanese culture and art on display, as well as the tranquil gardens. Remember, though, it’s closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.

Administrative Offices

For those looking to get in touch with the museum’s administrative side, whether it’s for membership inquiries, event planning, or any other questions, the administrative offices are open during the week. You can reach out to them from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. They’re very responsive and always willing to help visitors with their queries.

Getting Here

Visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton is an experience I always look forward to. Whether you’re coming for a peaceful stroll through the gardens or an enlightening program at the Oki Education Center, getting there is an integral part of the journey. Let me guide you through the best ways to arrive and what to expect when you attend a program.

Driving Directions

When I first planned my trip to Morikami Gardens, I found that driving there was convenient, especially considering the beautiful locale in Boca Raton. If you’re coming from the north or south, the easiest route is via I-95. You’ll want to exit west onto Linton Boulevard and continue until you reach Jog Road. Make a right onto Jog Road, and before long, you’ll see the signs guiding you toward the museum and gardens. The drive is scenic and, depending on the time of day, bathed in the warm Florida sun, setting the perfect mood for a day of exploration.

For those arriving from the west, head east on Atlantic Avenue until you reach Jog Road. Here, you’ll make a left turn and follow the road until you see the Morikami signage on your right. I always keep an eye out for the local flora along the way; it’s a prelude to the beauty you’ll find within the gardens themselves.

Parking is ample, and I’ve never had an issue finding a spot. It’s a relief, especially when I’m eager to start my visit.

Attending a Program in the Oki Education Center

The Oki Education Center hosts an array of programs that delve deeper into Japanese culture and arts. From Ikebana flower arrangement workshops to traditional tea ceremonies, there’s always something fascinating on their calendar. I remember attending my first tea ceremony there; it was an enriching experience that gave me a deeper appreciation for the meticulous art involved.

When you plan to attend a program at the Oki Education Center, I recommend arriving at least 30 minutes early. It gives you ample time to park, find the education center, and settle in without rush. Keep an eye on the Morikami’s website for event registration details, as popular programs tend to fill up quickly.

Upon arrival, follow the signs leading toward the education center, located conveniently within the park grounds. The staff are friendly and helpful, always ready to guide first-timers to their destination. Every time I’ve attended a program, I’ve been impressed by the organization and the passion of the instructors. It’s clear they love sharing their knowledge and experience, making each program a memorable learning opportunity.

Accessibility and Special Assistance

When planning my visit to the Morikami Gardens in Boca Raton, I discovered they take accessibility and visitor comfort very seriously. It’s crucial to me that everyone has the chance to enjoy such a beautiful place, regardless of their mobility needs or other requirements.

First off, I learned that the museum and gardens are wheelchair accessible. This includes the outdoor areas, where pathways are well-maintained, ensuring smooth navigation through the diverse landscapes of the gardens. For those needing them, wheelchairs can be borrowed, free of charge, on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s a relief knowing these facilities are available, as it allows everyone to experience the beauty of the gardens without limitation.

Moreover, the Morikami Museum endeavors to accommodate visitors who require special assistance. I found that service animals are welcome, which I think is a thoughtful touch for guests who rely on these companions. It’s always comforting to know that I can bring a service animal along if needed.

I also noticed that the staff’s commitment to visitor comfort extends beyond these logistical considerations. They’re knowledgeable and seem genuinely eager to help make your visit as enjoyable as possible. Whether it’s providing directions to a specific garden area or offering insights into the best times to visit certain exhibitions, their assistance is invaluable.

For families or individuals planning to visit with young children, the museum offers stroller rental, ensuring that even the youngest visitors can enjoy a day out in the gardens. This convenience adds to the overall family-friendly atmosphere of the Morikami Gardens.

Parking is ample and thoughtfully laid out, with designated spaces for those with disabilities located near the entrance. This minimalizes the distance from car to museum, ensuring that visitors with mobility issues can start their experience with ease.

Service Animals

Visiting the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens has been an enlightening journey through the heart of Japanese culture and history. It’s clear that the museum goes above and beyond to ensure every visitor has a memorable experience. From the interactive workshops and tea ceremonies that offer a deep dive into the pioneering spirit of the Yamato Colony to the serene beauty of the Rojien gardens reflecting centuries of garden design evolution, there’s something truly special about this place.

What stands out most is the museum’s commitment to accessibility and comfort. Knowing that the museum offers wheelchair accessibility, free rentals, and even stroller rentals for families makes it a welcoming space for everyone. The designated parking and accommodation for service animals show a thoughtful consideration for visitors’ needs.

I’m already looking forward to my next visit. Whether it’s to explore a new exhibit or simply to find peace in the gardens, Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton is a place I’ll keep coming back to.

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Harlan Kilstein has been a Boca Resident since 1997. He know the ins and out of Boca


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