“Yamato,” a Japanese agricultural colony south of Delray, was established by Jo Sakai in 1904. He named the area after an ancient name revered in Japan. Sakai was born about 1873 in Japan and immigrated in 1896 to Seattle. By 1910, he was living in Delray, with his wife Sada and a daughter, nine month old Chicako. Sakai was listed as a “pine & truck farmer” and one of very few Japanese in these parts. The following census shows Sakai, Sada and five children, amazingly all girls, residing in Precinct 6 of Boca Raton.
Shortly thereafter Henry Flagler recruited George Morikami, among others, to our county. Morikami, also from Japan, was born about 1885 in Miyazu. He immigrated to the US in 1903, where he became a truck farmer and was renting from Samuel Matsumoto in Eau Gaille, Brevard County, Florida. He relocated to Boca Raton by 1920 and was listed as an unmarried farm operator. He moved to Delray Beach and roomed at the home of Earl and Abigail Kenyan in 1930. Morikami donated about 200 acres of land which have been since named the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
“The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a center for Japanese arts and culture [which] includes two museum buildings, the Roji-en Japanese Gardens, a bonsai garden, a museum gift shop and the Cornell Cafe restaurant. Rotating exhibits are displayed in both buildings, and demonstrations, including tea ceremonies and classes are held in the main building. Traditional Japanese festivals are celebrated several times a year.” The Museum was opened in 1977, in a building that is now named the Yamato-kan. In 1993, the principal museum building opened and construction of the Roji-en gardens began.
The Morikami Museum and Gardens host a number of Japanese-influenced festivals each year and has been a center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida, with rotating exhibitions in its galleries, tea ceremonies performed monthly in its Seishin-an tea house, an educational outreach program with local schools and organizations, and Japanese traditional festivals celebrated for the public several times a year. For additional information go to: http://www.morikami.org.
The Japanese early settlers came to Delray for shopping, recreation and participation in civic events. Their children attended grade school in Yamato, but came to Delray to attend high school at Delray High School. The 1920 census is revealing. In the entire US there were 143,573 folks living here born in Japan. Of those 76 lived in Florida and only 24 lived in Palm Beach County. The numbers may have been small in South Florida at the turn of the 19th century, but their contributions were great. Their presence has influenced and improved our community.
Marc D. Thompson, marc@VirtuFit.net, delved into writing and genealogy at a very early age. He wrote stories, poems, lyrics and family history books. Mr. Thompson went on to write and research in high school and college, earning a BS degree from Moravian College. He has presented genealogical lectures and authored seven family history volumes and recently published The Virtual Personal Training Manual, Fitness Book of Lists, Wellness Quotes of Humrous Inspiration, Poems…Of Eternal Moments, His other published works appear in Fighting Chance Magazine, Love’s Chance Magazine, Northern Stars Magazine, Offerings, Poetry Motel, Suzerian Enterprises and The Pink Chameleon. He currently pens a monthly health and fitness blog at ideafit.com. Mr. Thompson is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and has founded two Genealogy societies. He was the County Coordinator of the Chatham Co, GA USGenweb site and wrote a monthly genealogy column for Atlantic Avenue Magazine. Writing now for over four decades, when he puts pen to paper, eloquent, heat-felt yet real-life truths emerge. Mr. Thompson has been influenced by science, art and believes in what he calls Creatalytical Thinking: The fusion of creativity and analysis to view life more fully.