This weekend, I discovered the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. We caravaned up from Miami with my sister and several of her journalism students from Cutler Ridge Christian Academy for a day of exploration, and explore we did!
Set on 200 acres in south Palm Beach, this place is filled not only with Japanese history and culture, but also with the history of George Morikami and the ambitious Japanese farmers who plowed these lands in the early 1900s. You can learn about their story when you go, but Mr. Morikami donated this land to Palm Beach County in the 1970s in hopes of preserving its beauty as a park for all to enjoy. He succeeded.
Take a stroll through the gardens (family friendly for sure with paths fit for wheelchairs or baby strollers) and you'll see Japanese lanterns tucked amongst the floral and fauna; the bonsai garden overlooking the pond filled with turtles and koi; the bamboo grove that "sings" with the wind; and my favorite - the shishi odoshi - or deer chaser. I could spend an entire week in those gardens, just relaxing, meditating, and soaking in the sounds of nature.
The Cornell Cafe is their onsite restaurant that overlooks the lake and the gardens. It's been rated the Third Best Museum Food In The Nation by FoodNetwork and the title is well deserved. We feasted on dragon rolls, grouper in almond crust, noodle bowls, and udon noodles that were perfectly plump and tender.
Inside, tour the museum and see everything from Japanese artwork to kimonos. Fascinating - and air conditioned for your comfort. There is also a wonderful gift shop that is quite a mystery - how can they possibly fit so many lovely things into not-that-big of a space? They have everything! Toys, jewelry, lanterns, clothing, candles, silks, ceramics, rainchains, windbells, noodle bowls, chop sticks, samurai swords...wow.
Morkami is known for their outstanding festivals and events. They had a Sado tea cermony on the day we visited. We learned the meaning of Chanoyu and witnessed its disciplined elegance - and even drank in its splendor (slurping is highly encouraged as it shows good manners).
Festivals, cultural events, cuisine, gardens...you've got to experience this place. Here's a short video of the gardens - forgive the little bit of shakiness, it was really windy. But do go, you'll love it.