The Morikami Japanese Garden in Delray Beach, Florida/USA

George Morikami
He had a dream and left a legacy

Delray Beach/Boca Raton/USA. (2014 02) –  Even when you realize that your dream does not come true, your life still can become great or even legendary! Best proof of this theory is George Morikami (1886 – 1976), a native Japanese, who lived part of his life in the USA where he could not fulfill his dream, but managed to make a grand mark and leave an impressive legacy.
Traveling in Southern Florida it quickly becomes obvious that the Japanese names “Morikami” and “Yamato” are interconnected and omnipresent. In Boca Raton one of the main streets is called “Yamato”, named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, located in Kinai, corresponding to present-day Nara Prefecture in Honshu. A few miles north of Boca Raton, in Delray Beach, a very beautiful Japanese garden and museum carry the name of the great George Morikami to honor him and to keep his story alive for generations to come. The story he wrote with the way he lived his life in Florida is inspiring for so many, the generosity he showed to this country is heard warming and exemplary.

The story indeed is remarkable and goes like this: In the beginning of the 20th century, in 1904, Jo Sakai, a Japanese, who lived and studied in New York, went to Japan to convince a group of farmers to come to the USA to start a farming colony. Sakai came back to the United States leading a group of Japanese farmers to the area which today belongs to Boca Raton in South Florida. One of these men was George Morikami. He, Sakai and several hundred Japanese settlers build up the “Yamato Colony” on Sakai’s 1000 acres of land and started to grow pineapples. Unfortunately, the Japanese were not too lucky with their venture in the years to come, first the pineapple blight destroyed their crop and in the following years the competition on the fruit market became too great for the colony to further compete.

The “Yamato Colony” finally gave up their dream in the 20’s and all the Japanese families moved away. Except one of the settlers, George Morikami. He continued to work as a farmer, cultivating fruits and vegetables. Over the years he acquired 185 acres of farmland and woods. In the 60’s he gave 40 acres back to the State of Florida for the use of agricultural research. In the 70’s Morikami  donated again 40 acres of his land to the State, this time to be used for a park and a museum to help to further maintain the cultural Japanese traditions in Florida. When George Morikami was in his 80s, he donated the rest of his land to the Palm Beach County with the wish to incorporate it into the park and to honor with it the memory of the “Yamato Colony”.

The “Morikami Japanese Garden” was established in 1977, the park in Delray Beach completed a major garden expansion and renovation back in 2001. The garden shows major periods of Japanese design from the eighth to the 20th century. The Morikami Gardens consists of shinden islands, paradise garden and contemporary garden. According to the garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, each garden is intended to express the character and ideas of a unique counterpart in Japan without attempting to duplicate those gardens, and seamlessly flow together as one garden.
Wall plaque at the Morikami Japanese Garden in Delray Beach, Florida/USA

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