Recently, I was researching quotes from some of my favorite novels, for no other reason than to post them on my personal Facebook page. I was looking for some inspiring words, the kind that resonated with me, the kind that I could share with others.
I came across this one from Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury: “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there . . . The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well have not been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
When I read those words, I thought of my recent day spent at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, located in Palm Beach County.
The story of Morikami begins in 1903, when Jo Sakai, a native of Japan, visited the area and dreamed of establishing a Japanese agricultural colony. By 1904, he had recruited enough young farmers to found the Yamato Colony near Boca Raton.
With dreams of finding their fortune in land, the men grew pineapples. In time, some of the farmers traveled back to Japan and returned to the colony with their wives. Children were born.
Yamato, an ancient name for Japan, flourished — until its pineapple operation could no longer compete with Cuban-grown pineapples. The Yamato colonists then switched their crops to winter vegetables.
Growing pains continued to plague the Yamato Colony, and many of the farmers returned with their families to Japan. By the start of World War II, there were few Japanese remaining in the Yamato Colony — and in May 1942, the United States government seized the land still owned by the Japanese colonists in order to build a military installation.
While the Yamato Colony had reached its end, some of the Japanese colonists remained in the area. One was George Sukeji Morikami.
As he continued to work the land and increase his fortunes, he continued to live very simply, living out his remaining years reclusively in a mobile home on his land.
In the 1970’s, when Morikami was in his 80s, he donated the land — along with a wish for it to become a park to preserve the memory of the Yamato Colony — to Palm Beach County.
Now, back to Bradbury’s quote. Thanks to the hands of George Morikami — and countless gardeners — two museums and a series of Japanese gardens now sit on his land. The gardens, inspired by actual gardens in Japan, use Japanese gardening principles on subtropical Florida plants.
In total, there are 16-acres of plantings in these gardens, officially known as Roji-en or Garden of the Drops of Dew. Because of its vastness — and the number of photos — I’ve opted to share this field trip in two posts.