Introducing the Year of the Horse!

UPDATE 1/10/14: Due to extreme flooding Oshogatsu has been postponed until Sunday, January 19, 2014. If you have already purchased tickets you will receive an email with details about your purchase. Otherwise, you may still purchase tickets online until Friday, January 17th at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you all there next Sunday!

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It’s that time of year, fans, where we gather together with family and friends, reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the one to come. The holiday season can be a blur of activity, but it all culminates in one of our favorite events – Oshogatsu: A New Year’s Celebration!

The New Year is Japan’s most important and celebrated holiday, and many traditions and activities are included in the festivities. To get you prepared for our upcoming New Year’s festival, we’ll be explaining one or two of these traditions each Friday until January 12th. Check back each week to learn more about what makes Oshogatsu so special, and how we’ll interpret these traditions at the festival.

The Zodiac

Every year is named after one of the zodiac animals, and this year we celebrate the Year of the Horse for those born in 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, and 2014.  The zodiac was introduced to Japan from China and there are several tales of how the animals were selected and in what order. One of the most popular stories finds Buddha calling all the animals of the world to come to him on New Year’s Day. As a reward, he promises each one a gift. Only 12 animals came and each one was given the honor of having a year named for them. Their arrival time marks their esteemed position in the twelve-year cycle, with the rat always first and the boar forever last.

The Year of the Horse

People born in the same zodiac year are thought to share some of the same characteristics. Those born in the year of the horse are said to be skillful in paying compliments and in handling money and financial matters. They are also supposed to be talkative, quick thinkers, wise and talented. Horse people may also anger easily and be impatient.

For the upcoming year of the horse, we’d like to introduce you to our Oshogatsu mascot – Uma! We made an origami version of Uma to show her off to you, so follow us on Vine to check it out, or scroll down to see how to make an Uma of your own.

See you back here Friday, 12/20 when we’ll talk about Mochitsuki  – the rice pounding ceremony!

horse origami

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Check-In to Check Us Out

We all know that Morikami Membership has its benefits, but what if we told you that you could get those benefits at 25% off for the entire month of August?  You read that right – from August 1 -31, 2013 we’re offering a 25% discount on Dual and Netsuke level memberships just for checking in to Morikami on Facebook or Yelp.

It’s pretty simple: visit Morikami this August, bring your smart phone and log onto the Facebook or Yelp app. Then, check in and show your confirmation to the friendly staff at the membership desk. Soon you’ll be breezing through festival lines (because you get FREE admission to Hatsume, Oshogatsu and Sushi & Stroll), and enjoying discounts in the Cornell Café and the Museum Store.

To sum it up, why become a member?

The Fine Print:

In-person ONLY, no online orders. You must show your check-in page at the membership desk to receive discount. This deal cannot be combined with any other offers. Discount applies to Dual and Netsuke membership levels (new or renewal) ONLY. Please note that the Yelp and Facebook apps are the easiest way to check-in. If you are checking in with a tablet you MUST have the yelp or facebook app, as the browser does not give the option to check-in.

*Members who join on or before Lantern Festival 2013 (coming up Saturday, October 19) will enjoy free admission to the festival. Beginning in 2014, free Lantern Festival admission will no longer be included in Morikami’s membership package, but members will be able to take advantage of significantly discounted Lantern Festival admission and additional members-only festival benefits.

yelp deal_web explanation

Nuptials in Nature, Morikami Does it Well

Years ago, a friend of mine got married at the Morikami.

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, overlooking Morikami Pond, surrounded by nature’s decorations, you know how it is. It’s gorgeous, a little sweaty and totally unique. The birds are chirping quietly, the water is moving gently, the breeze is blowing slowly, as you watch your best friend connect with his/her love, hopefully for the rest of their lives.

There is definitely something magical about being married among nature.

Granted, it’s a little scary. Rain? Bugs? Noise? Allergies? Yep. Yep. Yep and Yep. All definite possibilities. The sun may be a bit too bright that day or the heat too oppressive, for sure. You worry about stuff like hairdos falling and grooms sweating out of their expensive tuxedos.

But when it all goes right (or when nothing big goes wrong, depending upon your point of view), absolutely nothing beats a wondrous sunset, the twinkling of the night sky, or a robin’s egg-blue sky with a lovely breeze swaying the bamboos just so. Because nature never repeats.

Every time, it’s  different, special, one of a kind. I’ve been to the Morikami so many times, but I will always remember Erin and Kevin’s wedding. She was beautiful. He was handsome. And the evening was perfect, as the Morikami gardens put on a special show.

This is the season for weddings. Despite the humidity, temperatures, flying skeeters and biting gnats, couples are still tying the knot at the Morikami Falls, Morikami Pond, on the bridge  or under the trees.  If you’re invited to a summer, Morikami wedding, wear cotton or linen, a simple up-do and light makeup — then consider yourself lucky.

Because then you’ll know how it is. Just amazing.

A wedding at the Morikami, nothing like it

So unique, so natural, so Morikami

Posing on Morikami's bridge...

Decorating in Small Spaces

In a garden as large and as varied as the Roji-En, it can be very easy to overlook a small patch that is not as pretty as it could be …

But the staff that maintains and grooms the Morikami gardens aren’t into overlooking things, even a space as small as 10′ x 5′. Instead, they re-imagined such a space into a spot of inspiration and beauty.

In the Nelson Memorial Garden, there is now a lovely raked rock garden where there used to be only potential.  Staff used three existing small boulders, added a stone border and about a cubic yard of fine pea gravel — a feat easily replicated in a home garden or backyard for those looking for a project.

The staff finished its garden just in time for the Morikami’s Mother’s Day program, and it’s now available for admirers all summer long. Just like any other designer with a space too small to be elaborate but too big to ignore, the garden staff decided on its own to make the most of the area by using elements consistent with the rest of the Roji-En, designed by Hoichi Kurisu.

Visitors can find the new addition between the Modern Garden and South Gate of Roji-En. As it’s been said before, “sometimes less is more.”

Garden staff recreated a small area in Roji-En into a spot of inspiration.

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

Taking a Walk Down Taiko Memory Lane

This weekend, the taiko drumming ensemble, Fushu Daiko, will perform for the 20th time at Hatsume. Hatsume Fair is the Morikami’s springtime festival, spanning two days and 14 hours of fun. (11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)

I’ve been working with the Morikami for the past 10 years; so for half that time, I have witnessed Fushu Daiko’s thundering influence on Hatsume crowds. Amazing cannot describe the energy and excitement when they take the stage.

When I first started writing for the museum, I knew NOTHING of taiko drumming, so my family and I traveled down to their warehouse-like studios in western Ft. Lauderdale. They were rehearsing at night, and we stood silently by and listened. It felt like a train was barreling through that bay. The wooden sticks flew up and down in synchronized rhythms, as people of all shapes and sizes, sweated out the music. It looked more like a workout than a musical performance. Of course, it was both.

I learned that when my family and I took a taiko drumming workshop at the Morikami several years later. Inside the auditorium, we were paired up with a big taiko drum and a pair of fat wooden sticks. You assume a warrior-type, yoga stance to support your body and hit the drum with measured ferocity. Everything hurts when you’re done. Your back, your legs, your hands, your arms.

At that moment, when I walked off the auditorium stage, sweaty and tired, I gained new respect for the men and women of Fushu Daiko, who perform three times a day for two days at Hatsume in sets that can last for 30 minutes or more.

A few rules have emerged over years of watching Fushu Daiko at Hatsume:

1) Stake a seat early if you want to see the action up close. By the time the drums start thundering, it’s standing room only, and I always get stuck behind a really tall dude.

2) If it’s hot, wear sunscreen, but don’t put up an umbrella or some other covering. It’s not nice to the people behind you, who want to see the stage too!

3) Don’t expect the drummers to be Japanese. There are some drummers of Japanese heritage in Fushu Daiko, but the diversity on stage is representative of the diversity of South Florida – black, white, Hispanic, male, female, young, old(er) – all have become part of the troupe that sends the booming message that it’s Hatsume time!

Happy Anniversary, Fushu Daiko!

Fushu Daiko Excites Hatsume Crowds for 20th Time This Weekend

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!

No Snow in SoFla! It’s Time for Morikami’s Outside Dining

December doesn’t seem like the time for iced green tea and hot miso soup. No, it’s the season of pumpkin pie and mulled cider.

Unless, of course, you live in South Florida – home of record temperatures. We sit in front of our TVs, watching blizzards and icy roads wreak havoc on our northern neighbors with the A/C running. It’s hot outside down here!

But not too hot to take in the outside dining pleasures of the Cornell Café. I was there a few days ago, sitting on the patio overlooking blue skies and the greenery of Roji-En. Me and about 25 others had figured out that the humidity had lessened and the rain had abated long enough for us to really enjoy an al fresco menu of Asian cuisine.

One iced green tea, bowl of miso soup, shrimp tempura roll and eggplant entrée later, I was perfect – just like the weather.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know it’s time for eggnog and carols on yuletide something or another. But if you live near me, it’s also time to eat outside at the Cornell Café before the bugs, dark clouds and oppressive stickiness of summer days return.

A table has your name on it.

A bento box features a sampling of the Cornell Cafe menu.

Outside dining in December at the Morikami? No sweat -- literally!

5 Fast, Fun Facts About The Morikami’s Gardens (Wow Your Neighbors. Impress Your Friends.)

Did you know…

1) George Sukeji Morikami donated his land to Palm Beach County in the 1970s with the wish to preserve it as a park and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony?

2) One of the garden’s features is a traditional gravestone for Mr. Morikami, which was erected in 1989 as a gift from the people of Miyazu, Morikami’s home town. The adjacent marker memorializes Jo Sakai and Mitsusaburo Oki, founders of the Yamato Colony?

3) Literally meaning “tray planting,” bonsai are trees or groupings of trees artistically shaped and cultivated in a container. The Morikami’s collection is the most outstanding public display of the living art of bonsai in the southeastern United States emphasizing species which flourish in Florida?

4) From Rocky Point in Roji-En, a visitor has a captivating view in every direction?

5) Plants are not identified by signage within the gardens in order to encourage looking at the gardens as a whole. Indigenous and adapted plant materials have been selected for their qualities similar to plants found in Japan rather than the large-leafed tropical plants typical of South Florida?

Bonsai

Bonsai gardens are one of the attractions of The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Beating Holiday Blues One Step at a Time

Most people know that although the holidays are normally a time of connecting with friends and family, spending money you don’t have and eating food cooked with lots of butter and sugar (yum!), it can be a trigger for great loneliness and depression.

It can be a time when, as others are celebrating, people are missing loved ones who can’t come home or have passed away. Some are simply alone, feeling isolated.

One of the terrific things about living in South Florida is that when others are shoveling snow, we’re still basking in sunshine. So it couldn’t be a more opportune time than October for the Morikami to reintroduce its Stroll for Well-Being series.

It’s a chance to sign up for a major diversion from holiday blues with scheduled walks through Roji-En. A specially developed journal, designed to enhance the experience, is used as a guide and a means to record personal thoughts through the 12 themed garden strolls. There will be three meetings with the journal’s author, an associate professor at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University.

An explanation about the program will be provided during the first meeting (Oct. 20); the second one, which will take place halfway through the program (Nov. 17), will be used to answer any questions that may appear during the first few walks. Finally, the last meeting (Dec. 15) will take place at the end of the program and will include a discussion of experiences.

The cost is $95, which includes a one-year Origami Morikami membership, or $40 for Morikami members. Consider it an early gift to yourself or someone else if you or they need another reason to feel upbeat this holiday season.

For more information and registration, please go to www.morikami.org or call 561-495-0233 x 235.

Seniors Stroll the Roji-En

Seniors Stroll the Roji-En