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Morikami reopens Yamato-Kan with new digital exhibits

Newly refurbished Yamato-Kan building now open at the Morikami Museum.

Photos by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is reopening the original museum building, Yamato-Kan, which was the main building and center of the museum from its opening in 1977 until 1993, when the theater, cafe and art galleries were built.

Sponsored by Inspired Living of Royal Palm Beach

The building’s architecture and naming convention are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and history. It is modeled after the famous Katsura Imperial Villa, which still exists in Kyoto. Built with all-natural materials and balanced proportions, the building stays true to Japanese aesthetics and architectural traditions.

Interior of the Yamato-Kan.

Carla Stansifer, Morikami’s curator of Japanese art, spoke about the new exhibits at the museum. While visiting the renovated Yamato-Kan, guests can view three new short documentaries produced by Apex Productions in West Palm Beach and pay tribute to the Yamato colonists, the life of George Morikami and the philosophy of Hoichi Kurisu, who designed the renovated gardens.

George Morikami

The renovations include digitized materials from the Yamato colony. One of the centerpieces of the collection is the diary of Tamemasu “Henry” Kamiya, whose accounts of his time at the colony, where he arrived in 1904, provide a sense of the hardships endured by these early South Florida settlers.

“We have several different archived sets of documents and photos, all related to the original colonists,” Stansifer says. “Just recently we had the Oishi family, their father lived at Yamato colony and came over from Japan, a man named Don Ilkumo Oishi, and recently they lent us some of their family photos, and we were able to go over those and scan them and include them and match it up with the diary. It’s been very interesting to weave those two things together.”

Thank you to Inspired Living for sponsoring

Yamato, meaning “great peace” and the ancient name of the main island of Japan, was the name of a village of Japanese settlers starting in 1904 in Boca Raton, where they farmed a large piece of land and tried to build a life.

A recent graduate of New York University, Jo Sakai, organized the farmers and led them to Boca Raton. A subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, the Model Land Co., helped form the colony. But the colony’s crop experimentation did not flourish, and by the 1920s the members of the community dispersed across the United States or returned to Japan.

Gathering of the settlers in the Yamato colony in 1922.

The rest of the Morikami Museum features three exhibition galleries, a 225-seat theater, an authentic tea house, classrooms, a museum store, a cafe and lakeside terraces. It is home to more than 7,000 artifacts, including a 500-piece tea ceremony collection, over 200 textiles and many pieces of fine art.

Six Japanese gardens with walking paths, resting areas, a world-class bonsai collection and koi-filled lakes fill the 16 acres that surround the museum. Morikami underwent a major expansion and renovation of its gardens in 2001, with designs reflecting major periods of Japanese garden design from the eighth century to modern times. The gardens are one of Palm Beach County’s greatest attractions.

The recent renovation of the Yamato-Kan was funded by a grant from the Freeman Foundation and a special donation from Mitsubishi Electric HVAC.

For more information, visit, or call 561-495-0233. The museum is at 4000 Morikami Park Road in Delray Beach.


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