Sunday, May 7, 2017

DESTINATIONS: Morikami Museum & Gardens: The essence of Japan in South Florida

With so much anti-immigration language floating around these days,
not to mention words like "deportation" and "internment" being used by certain
heinous political figures, I thought it might be time to revisit this posting
about the Morikami Gardens and Wendy Maruyama's striking 
"Tag Project" exhibited there last year. 

 Photo courtesy of

I was recently drawn to visit the elegant Morikami Museum and Gardens, in Delray, Florida, by a traveling design exhibition about the internment of 120,000 Japanese people living in the US during World War II. Called Executive Order 9066, the show is a powerful, wise and timely evocation of a disgraceful chapter in American history. I will describe it in greater detail below, but first, some highlights from a brief but most enjoyable walk through 16 acres of Morikami's enchanting gardens ...

Link here to download a map with descriptions of highlighted stopping points 

Karesansui ("dry landscape") Late Rock Garden
photo by Judy Polan
In this gardening style, rocks rather than plants
have primary focus, and are arranged in a 
bed of raked gravel.


 Morikami Falls January 2016

all photos by Michael Schonbach
unless otherwise noted

Hiraniwa Flat Garden 
(17th - 18th C. Zen pebble garden)
Evolving from late rock gardens, flat gardens make more
liberal use of plantings, and often incorporate outside elements
through a design technique called "borrowed scenery" (shakkei).

I Wandered Lonely ...
Taken on the bridge to Yamato Island

The Morikami Gardens were a gift to Palm Beach County from 80-year-old Japanese immigrant George Sukeji Morikami. He donated his land 
with the provision that it become a park preserving 
the memory of the Yamato Colony in his home country, 
and also with the hope of strengthening the bond between
 American and Japanese culture.

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
Time out to share a Bento Box at the museum's Cornell Café
A beautifully presented assortment of chicken teriyaki, salmon 
teriyaki, dumplings, rice, Asian eggplant, shrimp, golden tofu, 
egg roll and sushi roll pieces... yum!

°     °     °     °     °     °     °     °
... then on to the Wendy Maruyama exhibition
Executive Order 9066

on view through Sunday, January 31, 2016
Above: Members of the Mochida family awaiting an evacuation bus 
in Hayward, Calif. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses 
in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweetpeas. 
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

The artist
Professor Emeritus and Program Head of Furniture Design 
Program at San Diego State College
photo courtesy of

Wendy Maruyama, a third-generation Japanese American, is a furniture maker,
artist and educator who has long been interested in issues of social justice.
Her multi-part exhibition Executive Order 9066 comemmorates
the 70th anniversary of the closing of the last detention camp 
where, during World War II, approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans 
were interned. There were 10 camps spread throughout California, 
Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming. 
 Two-thirds of the evacuees were American citizens.
Their lives were shattered because they "looked like the enemy."

The Tag Project

The Tag Project consists of tens of thousands of reproductions of the paper identification tags that internees were forced to wear when they were being relocated. Although the tags' purpose was benign -- to keep members of families and their belongings from being separated -- they caused  humiliation and distress to the evacuees. The tags are grouped into ten tree-like bundles and suspended from the ceiling, each bundle representing one of the camps. The vast number of people displaced by FDR's executive order of 1942 is devastatingly represented here.

Maruyama obtained  lists of evacuees from US government
databases, and -- with the help of hundreds of volunteers --
 created exact replicas of the tags for each. The paper was dipped in 
coffee to give it a brownish, weathered look.

 The Aso Family -- grandfather Sakutaro, 70,
Shigeo, 3, and his brother, Sadao Bill, 6 
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

Dressed in her best clothes, Mae Yanagi, 7, waits with her pregnant mother, 
Kinuye Yanagi, right, to be bused to housing in the Tanforan, CA
Assembly Center by the War Relocation Authority.
Photograph by Dorothea Lange

Artifacts from detainees are poignantly displayed in the exhibition.
People were allowed to take with them only what they could carry by hand. 
Below, lost suitcases and handmade bamboo 
fishing poles (mounted on red wall).  
Photo courtesy of

Life in the detention centers was grim and disorienting. One pursuit that the 
detainees were allowed, once they had gained the trust of their guards,
was to create handcrafted decorative and functional objects.
Many prisoners, years later, attributed their woodworking, cooking,
metalcrafting and cooking with alleviating excruciating boredom and despair.

     Above: Paper flowers

Art objects made at the camps were known as "gaman",
a Zen term meaning "to persevere, to endure the seemingly
unbearable with patience and dignity." 

Baby bird pins; metal, pigment and wood, 1946
Made in Poston, AZ by Yukie Goto, as a gift to fellow internee Yone Yushioka

            Right: Copper sprinkler can
             Made in Poston III camp
             by Kasuke Hashiguchi

Below: Girl's Day (Hinamatsuri), wood and tar paper, Wendy Moruyama, 2011

This wall sculpture speaks eloquently of the detainee experience.

For more information about Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and
upcoming exhibitions, link here.

This posting was originally published on January 29, 2016.