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Yamato Colony 

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Mr. and Mrs. Jo Sakai.

In 1904 Jo Sakai and other Japanese immigrants arrived in north Boca Raton. Henry Flagler’s Model Land Company had invited the group to establish a farm community and use the Florida East Coast Railroad to ship their produce. The group called the settlement Yamato, which is an ancient name for Japan. Following other local farmers, the colony grew pineapples when they were profitable, and also grew citrus and vegetables. Most of the settlers were educated men who were unaccustomed to the hard labor, mosquitoes, and heat they encountered. 

By World War II, most of the Yamato colonists had either moved to other states, or had returned to Japan because they had saved up the $500 needed to buy a house there. The U.S. Army Air Corps forced the remaining colonists to sell their land for a training base, which eventually became the site of Florida Atlantic University and the Boca Raton Airport. 

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George Morikami in fields on his farm.

George Sukeji Morikami, the only uneducated colonist, arrived when he was nineteen, planning to earn a quick fortune and return to Japan. He lost nearly everything during the Depression, and again during World War II, and was refused loans because of anti-Japanese sentiment. But slowly Morikami accumulated over 200 acres in Delray Beach, which he farmed until his death in 1976. He donated 40 acres to the University of Florida for an experimental farm, and the rest to Palm Beach County. Morikami, Inc., a nonprofit organization, has partnered with the county to build the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens into America’s foremost center for Japanese culture.

 

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