Japanese courtyard at the Morikami Museum
Visitors can submerge themselves in Japanese art, history, culture and cuisine at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
South Florida’s connection to Japan stretches back to the early 20th century. A New York University graduate named Jo Sakai brought farmers from his hometown of Miyazu, Japan, to try to revolutionize agriculture in America. Called Yamato, an old name for Japan, the farm colony didn’t last long, but the Morikami Museum honors that legacy.
The museum’s collections include more than 7,000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, from textiles and fine arts to 500 tea ceremony items.
The museum complex offers a gallery with seasonal and permanent exhibitions, several gardens, a bonsai collection, a pan-Asian open-air cafe and a gift shop.
The Morikami Museum begins its “The Art of Bonsai” classes Jan. 2. Morikami offers both beginner and intermediate classes. Students will learn how to “trim and train” a bonsai tree. Sunday classes go through the beginning of February.
Although the art of bonsai is associated with Japan, the practice originated in China, where it was called “penzai.” Japanese students and visitors to China started to bring the practice to Japan in the sixth century. Over time, the bonsai tree became prominent in Japanese culture.
Japanese Zen Buddhism played a large part in the growth and reputation of the art of bonsai, and its popularity continued to grow. In 1868 the emperor moved the capital to Tokyo and placed bonsai trees throughout the Imperial Palace.
One of the oldest bonsai trees in the world is at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington. The Japanese white pine is nearly 400 years old. It was originally planted just miles from where the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima during World War II. In 1975, Japan gave the tree to the United States as a 200th birthday gift. It stands in the National Arboretum as a symbol of peace and friendship between the United States and Japan.
The Morikami Museum (morikami.org) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cafe is open the same days from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and free for members.