There Is Hope for the Future – Teenagers Aren’t So Bad!

I am the mother of two teens – two boys ages 15 and 16 – and I wonder what I think a lot of older people wonder when they gaze upon our next generation – “Are we going to be OK?”

Teenagers don’t exactly inspire confidence most of the time. Chores have to be spelled out in great detail, like they have forgotten how to clean; gaming replaces homework; texting replaces talking; and TV/DVR replaces the great outdoors.

However, there is hope, as evidenced on April 13 at the Morikami Museum, when an entire class of teenagers arrived with a check for $1,000, as a donation for the museum’s children’s programs. The Japan Club of Western High School in Davie, Florida, had picked up trash and sold cookies to raise the four figures because they believe in the continuance of sharing Japanese culture with younger generations.

(Insert sigh of relief here.)

The president of the club, who started it with a mere handful of students and grew it to more than 50, was a petite, well-spoken brunette named Ashley Rudolph. Articulate and humble, she represented the fact that we’re going to be OK.

With a shy smile, she introduced her dad, Jay, who was following her around with a camera, documenting his daughter’s final triumphs as a high school senior. Ashley was leaving for college in the fall, and dad was a reluctant “empty nester.” He revealed that Ashley wanted to pursue a career in the Japanese arts and history, hence the club and all the support.

The Japan Club of Western High School dropped off the check, respectfully stood for a short speech from a board member, mugged for some pictures, wandered the gardens and the galleries, had lunch at the Cornell Café and enjoyed the day. I watched them, thinking, “Teenagers aren’t so bad after all.” Really.

Japan Club at the Morikami

All Different Ways to Love the Morikami

There is a wall in the museum lobby that is adorned with names of people who are no longer with us. They share the common thread of loving the Morikami while they were alive.

One of those people, Rod Urhausen, had his name added recently to the shiny plaques on the wall, courtesy of his parents, Roy and Ruth Urhausen of West Palm Beach. The Urhausens gave a gift in memoriam for Rod, their only son, who died of brain and stomach cancer in 2004 at the age of 52.

Born into a musical family, Rod, a musical arranger, vocal coach, show producer and song writer, had spent some time in Japan, writing a script for play, before moving to New Jersey and New York. After a painful fight, he passed away, and his parents threw his ashes into the Pacific Ocean together.

But their remembrance of him continued with his name adorning a venue he adored.

“Rod visited us, but he never moved here. He did a lot of work in New York. We took him to the Morikami several times, an average of every other month. He loved to meditate there,” said his father.

Loving parents, they described Rod as a person everyone liked. He was good with children, a great teacher, a kind soul, a real talent, a well-mannered child with big, blue eyes and blond hair. Roy remembered a friend saying about Rod, “if you knock them out like that, you should have a dozen.”

But Roy and Ruth didn’t have a dozen. They didn’t have three or two. Just the one. And they loved him so, and he loved the Morikami.

When people walk into the lobby, for a moment, they should know that there are names on a wall. Names of people who saw what they see, heard what they hear and touched what they touch, and they thought so much of it, they became a part of it.

Rod Urhausen was one of those people, and we’re glad he’s a part of what makes the Morikami so special.

The Urhausen family together, Rod, Ruth and Roy

Is it Worth the $12?

Last week, coming out of the Morikami Museum, I was stopped by a stranger.

“Is it worth the $12?” he asked me. Tall with a friendly face, he seemed safe enough, so I stopped to hear him out. “You looked like you just went through it. Is it worth the 12 bucks? I’m the tour guide for my sister here, and we don’t know if it’s worth it to go inside.”

He was quickly joined in front of me by a kind-looking, petite blonde woman. His sister was visiting from out of town and was obviously ready for some form of entertainment; but since her brother was footing the bill, she was following his lead.

“Well, what are you into?” I asked.

“She’s an interior designer,” he said, pointing to his sister. “I live here, but I’ve never been.”

I mused that two people would get all the way to the entrance of a Japanese museum and gardens, and then stop to consider their options based on the admission price. But ah well…

“You’re an interior designer,” I said, looking at the woman. She nodded. “OK, well, from that standpoint, you will definitely get inspiration for design and aesthetics from strolling the gardens. The design is not one of a traditional botanical garden, but of a more organic combination of plants and textures designed to make you slow down and contemplate their beauty. You’ll see what I mean when you walk under the canopy of the bamboo trees or sit at the raked pebble gardens or past the two waterfalls. Even the wooden benches complement the overall design.

“Inside, the exhibit is of the huge sculptures of a modern Japanese artist, Jun Kaneko. Some of the sculptures are as large as small cars, and whole rooms can be built around them. They are dramatic and colorful and really not what you’d expect from a Japanese artist.

“And if you just want to shop, the Museum Store has the best decorating items. Vases, plates, bowls, wall hangings, rain chains, kimono, even knick-knacks for a little Japanese inspiration.

“From an interior design standpoint, you should find it a lot of fun.”

She looked at me, then at her brother.

“Pay the $12.”

I hope they had a good time.

Morikami Falls is one of many reasons why the Morikami is worth $12!

Morikami Makes Columnist’s Bucket List

It’s a time of resolutions for almost everyone, and luckily for us, a columnist for one of the local newspapers, the Sun-Sentinel, made the Morikami one of his “bucket list” resolutions.

For those who are not familiar with the movie, The Bucket List, (all three of you need to rent it), it’s a tale of two unlikely friends, who meet in a shared hospital room and learn they have months to live, due to terminal cancers. One is filthy rich and played by Jack Nicholson; the other is charmingly dignified, played by Morgan Freeman. They compose a list of things to do before they “kick the bucket,” hence the title.

It may sound hokey and maudlin, but it’s not. It’s inspiring, thoughtful and funny.

For columnist Michael Mayo, finally visiting the Morikami Museum, which had been in his neighborhood and on his “to do” list for a while, was a worthwhile achievement. Click here to read his thoughts on his visit: Mayo on January 3, 2010.

And for all of the Morikami fans who live within driving distance, but haven’t stopped by in months (or years), we invite you to add a stop to your 2010 resolutions. If “travel to Japan” is on your bucket list, the Morikami counts. Really.

Happy New Year!

Feeling That Holiday Stress? Beat Some Big Drums…

Shopping, cooking, wrapping, working. Repeat. Repeat. And repeat again. Throw in making holiday parties on top of holiday deadlines, out-of-town visitors and/or holiday travel, and you, my friend, may need some drum therapy.

Yes, we all know the grand holidays are the days of joy, mirth and more than a little good eating. But with all that merriment comes a fair share of stress, and there’s no better way to relieve that teeth-grinding feeling than beating a big, round taiko drum.

I know because I’ve done it. The Morikami tapped into the curiosity in the festival crowds and gave their visitors a chance to bang that drum. It’s not as easy or as coordinated as it looks — especially for the untalented and uninformed.

My family and I took the opportunity to attend a taiko drum workshop in the Morikami’s theatre. First, you get an education on the purpose of the drums, the lore they hold and the power they encompass. The one-hour verbal lesson by a leading member of the performing ensemble, Fushu Daiko, is supposed to prepare you for the physical part of the lesson.  It does not.

That’s because nothing readies you to hold two wooden sticks in your hands, get into a deep warrior pose and pound away for a second hour. You sweat, you ache, you get a little dizzy, and you look and sound just awful. (Getting good takes years. Being bad takes no time at all!) But you do receive a deep, abiding respect for the art and skill of mastering taiko drumming; and you’re so tired, you don’t have time to be stressed.

Three workshops are coming up on December 6 at 10:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 3 p.m. If you’re thinking someone in your life would appreciate a workshop, gift them the pleasure. Upcoming workshops, also held three in a day, are January 31, Feburary 28 and March 28. They are $50 per person. Call 561-495-0233, ext. 210 for reservations. Space is limited.

The Morikami recommends wearing comfortable clothes and shoes and no jewelry. I recommend eating your Wheaties, drinking some water and planning to nap afterwards. Really.

Does he look stressed to you? Try taiko yourself on Dec. 6 at The Morikami.

Meet Morikami’s Marketing Mavens

Ever wonder about the people behind the curtains? The ones who make stuff happen?

I get to work with these people every day. So it’s really nice to see them recognized in a big, public way for all the work they do to keep The Morikami “front and center” with the audiences who love it.

Last Thursday, The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens was one of two recipients of a county-wide tourism award, The Providencia. The honor recognizes stellar efforts to bring visitors to Palm Beach County and boost Florida’s economic life-blood.

Well, it takes a team of dedicated people to create programs, like Sushi & Stroll, Strolls for Well-Being and Oshogatsu/Hatsume/Bon, that keep folks coming back. It’s that same team that has to advertise, Facebook, work with media and keep the website booming, so people know what’s going on, when and why they should come.

Pictured below are four women on that team who made The Providencia a win for the museum this year. From the left, meet Jamie Russell, the new marketing and events coordinator; Kizzy Sanchez, marketing and events manager, and Kristina Schmidt, online marketing point person. Below them is the grand master, Director of Advancement Amy Hever.

Please give the people behind the curtain a round of applause. They rock!

Jamie Russell, Kizzy Sanchez and Kristina Schmidt

Amy Hever

Director of Advancement Amy Hever

Looking Forward at “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child”

For years, the Yamato-kan was the little Japanese house where you put on paper slippers and learned about early Florida and how Japanese settlers ended up there.

But yesterday, the Yamato-kan officially became more about today than yesterday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled a new permanent exhibit called “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child,” which invites you to step into a 3-D world as seen by a younger generation.

It’s a classroom, a living room, a shopping area and a train platform, all in great detail and accuracy, so you feel like you’re there – a child in modern-day Japan. You don’t have to be in elementary school to appreciate a day of make-believe. Although a “test” class of chorus singers from Morikami Park Elementary gave it a thumbs-up yesterday, after performing as part of the festivities.

More about this new, interactive exhibit in the next blog… Grand opening for the public is Nov. 7! All kids 17 and under are free! Learn more at

Larry Rosensweig and Cheiko Mihori

Former museum director Larry Rosensweig with Morikami trustee Cheiko Mihori

Larry Rosensweig Bonnie LeMay Beverlee Kohnken

Larry Rosensweig, Bonnie LeMay and Beverlee Kohnken walk through the classroom

Morikami Park meistersingers

Morikami Park Elementary singers entertain the ribbon-cutting audience

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky, singers from Morikami Park Elementary

Wendy Lo with kanji chart

Wendy Lo, education coordinator at Morikami, with kanji chart in Japanese classroom

Japanese kitchen

JTEC's Japanese kitchen is modern with cultural touches