Lantern Festival In the Spirit of Obon 2014

What is Lantern Festival?

Last year, Morikami’s much-loved summer event, Bon Festival,  evolved into Lantern Festival: In the Spirit of Obon. In an effort to protect the safety of Morikami visitors and staff, we moved the event out of the often inclement and even dangerous Florida summer months. While Obon is a traditional and religious Japanese holiday celebrated exclusively during the months of July and August, we have preserved the essence of Morikami’s much-loved event and the sanctity of Obon as it is celebrated in Japan, with Lantern Festival – a unique Fall celebration.

The 2013 Lantern Festival, our first ever, was a resounding and sold-out success. As we look toward 2014, we wanted to update you on some important changes to the event and explain why we’re making them.

NEW – Priority Access for Members!

Based on your feedback following Lantern Festival last year, and in an effort to improve your Lantern Festival experience, we intend to limit attendance even further at this year’s event. In order to do so, we can no longer offer free admission to Lantern Festival for Morikami members. However, members will have access to a limited amount of deeply discounted tickets before they go on sale to the public, and priority access to the festival one hour before the gates open to the public.* Priority access is a perk just for members and details about what’s included in this extra hour of festival access are available under the member tab on the festival web page and listed below:

  • Access to the festival one hour early: Take in the gardens and grounds, and participate in festival activities with your Morikami family during this members-only hour.
  • Early bird lantern sales (limited quantities available): beat the rush and get your lantern an hour before the general public!
  • Members-only taiko show: Grab a seat at this exclusive performance by the ever-popular Fushu Daiko!
  • Special members-only sake selection: Taste our members-only sake selection and learn about the brewing process from our sake experts.

A limited number of members-only tickets will go on sale August 1, a month before ticket sales open to the general public. Thank you – as always! – for your support as we strive to make our events more enjoyable year after year. We can’t wait to celebrate Lantern Festival 2014 with you!

*Please note: only current members (with valid member ID’s effective on October 18, 2014) may take advantage of members-only festival access, between 2pm and 3pm. Any guests attending with you must be covered by your membership to enter the festival during this time.

Collecting Japan: Q&A with Veljko Dujin, Curator of Collections at Morikami

Morikami’s Curator of Collections, Veljko Dujin, recently traveled to Japan in search of interesting artwork, little-known details of the life of Japan’s most famous nun, and the regionally favored cookie at every stop along the way. From May 1 through 19, Veljko hit Kyoto, Tokyo, Okayama, Kurashiki, Osaka, Nishinomiya, Nagoya, and Seto. Here’s what we learned about his whirlwind journey:

What was the primary purpose of your trip?

I set out to research Otagaki Rengetsu, a painter, calligrapher and ceramicist, and arguably the most famous nun in Japanese history. She lived from the late 1700s to the late 1800s. We’re hosting an exhibit of her work beginning in January 2015, so I wanted to find pieces of her work to add to our collection.

What were you able to find out about her?

I visited the temple where she spent much of her youth, Jinko-in, and Chion-in, where she spent her last years. After a mountainous half hour climb guided only by a hand-drawn map from the local monks, I was able to find her grave. One of her students planted a small cherry tree next to it close to 100 years ago. Today, its shade and blooms stretch over dozens of the surrounding gravestones. It was a very moving scene for me.

Describe a Japanese temple – how is it different than what probably comes to mind for most of our readers?

Unlike a church or synagogue, Japanese temples are more like campuses. There are halls to house the statues of the deities the temple is dedicated to, living quarters for the abbots, a tea house or two, often a library, and in the case of a Zen temple, a meditation hall. Lastly, every temple has a few beautiful gardens.

Besides Rengetsu’s work, what type of pieces were you looking for, and what did you find?

I traveled to Japan with Riva Lee Asbell, a prolific collector of Zen art who has promised her entire collection to Morikami. In Kyoto in particular we visited dozens of art dealers. The city’s famous Shinmonzen Street is home to over 60 antique galleries, each one specializing in objects from tea ceremony utensils to prints and paintings. A handful of dealers specialize in Zen art, and we visited all of them. Riva and I found some two dozen pieces that we feel enhance our collection including scrolls, ceramics, framed calligraphy, and hand painted books by renowned Buddhist priests, some whose work was displayed in our recent exhibit Zenmi: A Taste of Zen.

What do you consider when choosing a piece?

You can look at antiquing in Kyoto as a treasure hunt; a great object can appear anytime and often where you expect it the least. There are a few things we look at when considering a piece: its historical significance, the artist, whether it fits into our collection, and what the piece can add to the collection as a whole. Price is naturally an important factor as well. Most importantly, though, the collector and museum staff need to like the piece.

You obviously made time to visit some museums – as a curator, how might your museum experience differ from the average visitor?

I visited many museums, in Kyoto, Tokyo, Kurashiki, Okayama, Nagoya and Seto. As a curator, I approach a museum visit with more in mind than just looking at artwork. I am always looking for inspiration on how we can improve the Morikami exhibition layout and design, lighting, labels, and even security. However, the art on display is always the most important part of any museum visit. On this trip, my favorite exhibit was the “Grand Exhibition of Sacred Treasures from Shinto Shrines” at the Tokyo National Museum. Visiting this exhibit was a rare opportunity to see treasures – from religious art to great swords, armor and textiles – held in shrines throughout Japan. Many of these objects are designated National Treasures and thus seldom seen.

This trip was not all work and no play – what were some personal highlights?

I saw a handful of important temples for the first time, including Sengaku-ji in Tokyo, where the 47 ronin are buried. I met with abbots in temples in Kyoto and Okayama, including Harada Shodo Roshi, who spoke at Morikami during the Zenmi exhibit. I even joined monks in sitting zazen (meditation) style! As much as I enjoyed it my right leg was less than thrilled. I regained full control of it after a day or two. I also met with the family of one of my favorite potters, Suzuki Seisei, in Seto. It was truly a treat to visit the studio where he worked and see many of his pieces on display in his home.

What would our readers find most surprising?

I guess it would be the cleanliness and order in Japan. Everyone is patiently waiting in line, whether for a train or to buy something at a kiosk. Even the trains are pristine; a crew comes in to clean each time the train reaches its final stop on the line. These 10 minute cleanings are actually factored into the daily train schedule.

What do you make sure you bring home each time you visit?

Gifts! Or in Japanese, omiyage. It’s  my personal tradition to at least bring home cookies for friends and coworkers from wherever I visit, regardless of how long I’m away.

What’s your favorite thing to eat in Japan that you can’t find in the states?

That’s a difficult question, but I’d have to say Firefly Squid. They’re no more than two inches long and they actually glow under water. You eat them like you’d eat any squid, but I like them best either raw or fried tempura style.

For our readers who have never been, why visit Japan?

Japan is a truly magical place: a superb blend of ancient tradition and cutting-edge technological progress. The food is delicious, whether you dine in a fancy restaurant or hit up a street vendor; everywhere you look there is a temple, shrine, or a beautiful old house, usually next to an equally beautiful example of contemporary architecture. Everyone should experience the cleanliness, order, and the politeness of its people.

Want more Morikami? Check out our summer E-news for more from the staff and the Morikami family!

Fold, Post, Win!

To kick off the first Sushi & Stroll of the season (which is bonsai themed) we’re giving away a beautiful grow-your-own-bonsai kit and 2 tickets to Sushi & Stroll. All you have to do is fold one of these cute origami bonsai trees, and post your photo to our Facebook wall!

Step 1: Make your origami bonsai

Here’s a pretty simple origami tree we made. You can fold this one, or one of your choosing. Make sure to use a square piece of paper. It can be any size or type of paper as long as it is a square and not a rectangle. This is how we did it:

tree origami

Click here to see the full-size diagram.

Step 2: Show us how you did

Now that you’ve folded, take a photo of you and your tree and post it to our Facebook wall. If you haven’t already liked our page, you’ll have to like us first!

origami trees

Some of our trees

Step 3: Check back to see if you won

We’ll be choosing our favorite tree tomorrow (Friday, May 3rd) at noon, and we’ll tag the winner on facebook. If you win we’ll send your digital tickets by facebook or email (or hold them at the door), and you can pick up your gardenia bonsai kit at the museum.

Good luck, fans! Now get folding!

The winner will receive this grow-able gardenia bonsai kit from the Museum Store!

The winner will receive this grow-able gardenia bonsai kit from the Museum Store!


Update 5/3/13

Congrats to our winners Montgomery, Crysilin, Claudia, Katie, Kaylie, Alynn, and Courtney! Each of you have won 2 tickets to Sushi & Stroll 2013, and Alynn will be taking home the lovely gardenia bonsai kit. Thanks for participating!

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.

Summer is Here! Time for Sushi, Strolls and Sunsets

When the Morikami first introduced its evening events for the summer, then known as Sunset Strolls, it was part of an attempt to get people to visit the gardens when it wasn’t 102 degrees in the shade.

The early evening events used to have an early-morning counterpart, Sunrise Strolls. However, it seemed like more people liked hanging out late than getting up early, so after a few years, Sunrise Strolls slowly faded away. As time passed, the Sunset Strolls grew a following — a hungry following — so the Cornell Cafe got in on the act.

The events were re-named Sushi & Stroll, a DJ showed up, a couple came and danced on the terrace, and people would lounge among the languid temperatures and chill in the Roji-En. Before things got too relaxed, someone brilliant came up with the great idea to add the energy of taiko drumming to the mix.  Now for a few dollars more, strollers can take in a taiko concert before or after their sushi.

Sushi & Stroll has evolved from a good idea to a great idea to a “why didn’t I see you at the Morikami on Friday night?” idea. It has become the perfect end to a hectic workweek, a chillaxin’ beginning to the weekend or a nature-inspired, sexy-back date night kinda thang.

What do you mean you’ve never been??!

OK, here are the dates: May 14, June 11, July 9, August 20, September 10; time: 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Cost: $7 adults, $5 children (4-17) (Museum members and children 3 and under FREE); $2 for taiko performance (optional)

I invite you to check out the “evolution” of an event for yourself — when it’s not 102 degrees in the shade.

Chillax by the Morikami Falls at the upcoming Sushi & Strolls this summer.

Creating 10,000 Turtles

With a few folds of colored paper, supporters of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens will find out that it is not that hard at all to make an origami turtle, while at the same time supporting the museum’s children’s programs.

This Saturday, the Morikami will kick-off its new “10,000 Turtles” initiative with a taiko drumming performance by Fushu Daiko as part of Asian Heritage Night at Roger Dean Stadium. For a suggestion donation of $1, a family can purchase the materials and instructions for creating an origami turtle.

Kids will be invited to fold 10,000 origami turtles – a symbol of longevity in Japanese culture – for a special art display in the Morikami Museum.   The money raised will help keep the Morikami’s children’s programs going.

Visitors will be able to make their turtle at the Morikami all summer long or purchase and download the materials via the website (, and mail in the $1 donation and origami animal. The program will continue through September 30, 2010.

“Thanks to the support of lead sponsor Charles James Real Estate, we will be taking this hands-on, kid-focused campaign to the campers and visiting families who love the Morikami,” said Amy Hever, director of advancement.  “During the summer, the campers who participate in MORY (More Opportunities to Reach Youth) will also have an opportunity to make their turtle.”

“In essence, we are creating a way for kids to enjoy all that the Morikami has to offer them.”

The “10,000 Turtles” project will be in the lobby of the Morikami through September 30. Let’s get ready to fold!