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Yamato Colony - Pioneering Japanese in Florida

Yamato — an ancient name for the country of Japan.

Why do we find the name here in Palm Beach County? Because Yamato, Florida, was a small community where Japanese farmers once lived. The story of Yamato begins with Jo Sakai's visit to Florida in 1903. Sakai signed an agreement with the Florida East Coast Railway to locate a proposed colony of Japanese farmers in the Boca Raton area. He returned to Japan shortly afterward to recruit settlers and bring them to Florida. At first young, single men joined the Yamato Colony. For several years these settlers grew pineapples for shipment to markets in the north. By the end of the century's first decade competition from Cuban pineapples caused many area growers, including Yamato Japanese, to turn to winter vegetables. Few of the settlers remained in Yamato for very long, but those who did sometimes returned to Japan briefly to marry and bring wives to the colony. Families soon grew. Ironically prosperity during World War I and the land "boom" of the 1920's resulted in many of the settlers leaving. By the beginning of World War II, few Japanese remained. In May, 1942, farmland in the Yamato area still owned by Japanese was confiscated by the U. S. government for a military installation. Yamato's name lives on today, but the pioneering community of Japanese settlers is gone forever.

The Yamato Colony  - Pioneering Japanese in Florida:
Part I - An Idea is Born
Part II - Diary of a Colony
Part III - George Sukeji Morikami
Part IV - The Demise of a South Florida Community

This exhibition at The Morikami Museum has been financed in part with Historical Museums Grants-in-Aid Program assistance provided by the Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State, Secretary of State.