The Morikami Museum in Delray Beach, Florida, celebrates the hard work and dedication of Japanese immigrants who came to the region in the early 1900s in order to farm the land, and encourages the study of Japanese culture and customs.
The museum opened its doors in 1977, after the land where it exists was bequeathed to Palm Beach County by the only remaining Japanese farmer in the area, Mr. George Morikami. It was given under the condition that it be turned into a park, in remembrance of the original Japanese colony, named Yamato.
Then we walked on the park grounds, among the many themed Japanese gardens, each of which represented different historic design philosophies in Japanese culture. I filmed the park as well, and you can see that video below.
The park is lovely. The carefully manicured landscapes exert a calming influence on the visitor. Time somehow passes more slowly there. It’s a pity the park only opens at 10 am and closes at 5 pm. It must be beautiful to walk on the park grounds in the early morning hours, with fog lifting off its lakes and ponds and the songs of birds filling the cool morning air, echoing all around.
The Yamato Colony was an attempt to create a community of Japanese farmers in what is now Boca Raton. With encouragement from Florida authorities, young Japanese men were recruited to farm in the colony. Because of difficulties such as disease, discrimination from white farmers in the area and crop blights, the colony never grew very large, and gradually declined until it was finally dispersed during World War II.
The company who originally owned the land was the Model Land Company, created by Henry Flagler to hold title to the land granted to his Florida East Coast Railway by the State of Florida. The company encouraged the settlement of its land, particularly by recent immigants, to gain money from the sale of the land and to increase business for the railroad. In 1903, Jo Sakai, a Japanese man who had just graduated from New York University, purchased 1,000 acres (4 km²) from the company and recruited young men from his hometown of Miyazu, Japan, to settle there.
The settlers grew pineapples, which were shipped on Flagler’s railway line. Pineapple blight destroyed the crop in 1908. Afterward, the colony could no longer compete with cheaper pineapples from Cuba, so many of the settlers returned to Japan or moved elsewhere in the United States. The remnants of the colony were dispossessed after the entry of the United States into World War II, when their land was taken to create an Army Air Corps training base (now the site of Florida Atlantic University and the Boca Raton Airport).
The only member of the Yamato Colony to stay in the area was George Morikami, who continued to farm until the 1970s, when he donated his farmland to Palm Beach County to preserve it as a park, and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony. The road on which the Museum was built is now appropriately called Yamato Road, and Delray Beach has also become a Sister City with Miyazu, in honor of George Morikami and the Yamato Colony.