The Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden is a lovely spot to get away from the trappings of busy South Florida life. This is a hidden gem; for as many people as I introduce this place to, there are hundreds more that have never heard of it. For one, it’s tucked away inside a pretty suburban higher-end area, far away from the reaches of most in their daily driving lives. For two, if you are from South Florida you know that people from Miami hate driving to Broward, and people in Broward hate driving to West Palm Beach. For such an incredibly connected tri-county area, the lack of exploration is disturbing.

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Poor adventure spirits aside, Morikami represents a nice slice of Japanese life 7,400 miles away from the real thing. You first walk in through the main museum building, which houses a theater, authentic tea shop, library, 3 galleries, a cafe, and a gift shop  (a shop does some people a world of good). As you leave the building, you walk down a set of stairs onto the main Roji-en Japanese Garden grounds, which snake around the lake in front of you. Along the way you walk through a bamboo forest, see a rock garden, experience a nicely cultivated Bonzai collection, and walk through the Yamato-kan building (modeled after a Japanese villa, and featuring a hands-on exhibit of Japanese culture.

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There is a much stronger emphasis on the Japanese garden aesthetic as a whole, rather than on the individual gardens. That’s not to say that the gardens aren’t beautiful, I just think there’s a bit of conflict when it comes to our weather and temperature situation when compared to that of Japan (thereby hindering our ability to locally grow a lot of the plant/tree/flower life that can exist over there).

The Yamato-kan building is a very cool experience, letting you walking through Japanese culture in a much more visual manner. As with most gardens, I find the whole endeavor to be best enjoyed on a slower, more quiet day (in order words, not on a huge festival day!). Speaking of festival days…

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HATSUME FAIR 2015!
Hatsume is Morikami’s annual spring festival, celebrating the new life that comes with the season (in most places in the world, as in Florida it just means more heat). Officially, it’s a celebration of the first bud of spring. The majority of the fair takes place on grounds that are off the path from the actual gardens (wouldn’t want to trample all over those, now would be?), and start off with a sea of tents. There is a main tent that features many local artists selling their Japan/anime related wares. Tate’s Comics, a local comic/toy/game megastore, had a large presence.

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Outside of the main tent are many other local vendors, although the Japanese theme got a little muddled with these (unless the Japanese are big fans of Carribean Jerk Sauce). Sponsors are sponsors, of course, and there were still some cool tents (Bonzai!). Past the tents you found the food (teriyaki chicken/beef, fried rice, etc) and the drinks (Japanese beer as well as a sake station). Continuing along the path you came upon the stages: the Sake Stage (sushi and sake discussions), the Tokyo Stage (Taiko drummers, costume contest, fashion show), and the Osaka Stage (martial arts demonstrations). Traveling back to the main museum building, you’d find a snack market, as well as anime being played in the theater and Japanese karaoke.

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The festival had an official shirt that was available free of charge, provided you brought your own shirt. The designs were done by Brian Reedy (www.attacktheplanet.com), and were screen printed on the spot. If you didn’t bring a shirt, they were $10 (which is a pretty damned good price as they were nice quality shirts). The designs were pretty killer, so the chance to get them printed for free was a nice bonus

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That just about covers the fair’s offerings, at least on the end of Morikami itself. The unofficial side show is the cosplay: South Florida’s youths take this festival as chance to show off their costumes, in what I can only call an extreme feat of immense dedication (due to the lovely heat we are already encountering). You can see a nice mix of traditional Japanese dress, modern Harajuku fashions, anime stylings, and others. I unfortunately missed the costume contest on Saturday, but I can imagine it was pretty swell.

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I had a pretty nice time at the Hatsume Fest. I don’t go to Morikami too often, but it’s always a nice time. I was sad to have missed the lantern festival they do later in the year, so at least I now have one Morikami festival under my belt! Since this is the closest I can do to going back to Japan (aside from the Japan pavilion at EPCOT), I am going to need to visit here more often before my next trip to Nippon!

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All photos shot on a Sony A7II, with Sony Sonnar 55mm F1.8 and Sony Sonnar 35mm F2.8 lenses.