Kamishibai Japanese Storytelling Cards

The illustrations to depict the life of George Morikami and were assembled into a traditional Japanese Kamishibai storytelling kit for education purposes. Cards depict a summer Bon Festival at the Morikami Museum, a Yamato Colony tomato float in a Delray Beach Fourth of July parade, an adult George learning English by attending elementary school, and George raising pineapple plants.

Click through the text and illustrations below to view the entire story.

Through the generosity of the MetLife Foundation and the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties 10.25″ x 15″ boxed sets of the kamishibai story cards, “George’s Journey” were distributed to public schools throughout Palm Beach County. Each boxed set included cultural components and discussion points for students.

The story was written by Beth Kawazura with the assistance of Sharon Friedheim, Reiko Nishioka, Larry Rosensweig and Tom Gregersen of The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Additional informational support given by the Delray Beach Historical Society.

Artwork by Caren Hackman © 2002

George's Journey

Who’s Who in George’s Journey?

George Sukeji Morikami (s’ kay gee moh ree kah me) (1886 – 1976) was born in Miyazu, Japan and came to the United States in 1906. He farmed in Yamato Colony and later established a wholesale produce company.

Jo Sakai (sah kah ee) (1874- 1923) established Yamato Colony in mid-1905. A native of Miyazu and a graduate of New York University, he actively promoted Yamato Colony throughout his lifetime.

Mitsusaburo Oki (oh key) (1855 – 1906) was a silk merchant married to the older sister of Jo Sakai. He was a financial s11pporter of Yamato Colony and George Morikami’s sponsor.

Circa 1904

Illustration 2

Narrator: Many years ago, a young man named Sukeji Morikami lived in the coastal village of Miyazu (me yah zoo) in the country of Japan.

Sukeji: How am I going to make enough money to buy land? Land is so expensive, but I really want to have my own orchards to grow all the oranges, peaches, and persimmons that I can. How can I do that?

HHHhhhhnmmmm . . . .

I heard from a friend that Sakai-san is looking for fa1nilies to farm in Florida. A1n I brave enough to travel all the way around the world? Could I move away from my family? Could I earn enough money to come back home to buy land?


Narrator: During the next couple of weeks, Sukeji met with Sakai-san and learned about a Japanese settlement called Yamato (me yah zoo) in south Florida, near a town called Delray. Finally, one day …

Circa 1905

Illustration 03

Sukeji: Okasan ( oh kah sahn/rnother), Otosan ( oh toe sahn/father), I have something to tell you. I’m going to America.

Father: What? You’re my eldest son. Who will take care of our family?

Sukeji: But Otosan, I will be back. I’m only going for three years and when I return, I will have enough money to buy my farmland. Then I’ll be able to take very good care of all of you.

Mother: Sukeji, are you sure this is what you want to do? Do you know how far away America is?

Sukeji: It’ll be alright, Okasan. I won’t be alone. I will earn my $500 bonus from my sponsor and then I’ll be home again.

Narrator: So in the spring of 1906, Sukeji boarded the Shinano-maru, (she nah no -mah ru) a passenger ship bound for Seattle, Washington. From there he traveled by train to Florida.

Upon arrival in Delray …


Illustration 04

Narrator: Sukeji was struck by the flatness of the land, its harshness, and the high humidity.

Yamato Colony Settler: Yokoso! (yo ko so) Welcome to Yamato! Welcome to Florida!

Sukeji: An’gato gozaimasu! (ah ree gah toe go zah i ma su) Thank you very much.

Yamato Colony Settler: There are about 30 of us living here. We work in the pineapple fields, build crates and pack produce for shipping. We try very hard to get the most out of this land that is so different from Miyazu. Let me show you where you will be staying.

Sukeji: Arigato gozaimasu.

Yamato Colony Settler: Morikami-san, most of the colony are still working, but when they get back we’ll all eat outside together … some fish, vegetables, and, of course, rice.

Narrator: Sukeji quickly settled into Yamato Colony life working in the fields or the packing house. Then one day …


Illustration 05

Yamato Colony Settler: (exdtedly) Sukeji! Sukeji!

Sukeji: What’s the matter? Are you ok?

Yamato Colony Settler: I’m fine, but we must be careful. A terrible sickness has come and many people are dying. And … and … I hate to tell you this, but your sponsor has died, too.

Sukeji: What? Oki-san is gone? Oh no.

Yamato Colony Settler: I am so sorry, Sukeji. What will you do now?

circa 1906

Illustration 06

Sukeji: Why did I come here? How am I going to get back home? Poor Oki­san, I can’t believe he’s dead. What am I going to do? Without my bonus I may never see my family again.

Slight Pause

Narrator: After Sukeji agonized over his predicament for days, he decided that his future was to work in the United States, at least for now. To do this, he needed to improve his English. He heard of a family he could live with in Eau Gallie, Florida, so with his goal strongly in mind he traveled north and . .


Illustration 07

Narrator: … at the age of 22, Sukeji Morikami entered the fifth grade of Ea11 Gallie Elementary School.

Student: You’re so big! What grade are you in? Are you the teacher?

Sukeji: No, no, no, no, no.

Student: What’s your name?

Sukeji: Morikami Sukeji.

Student: What kind of name is that?

Sukeji: I am from Japan.

Student: Where’s that? Why are you in our class?

Narrator: In the beginning, Sukeji could understand very little of what his teacher and classmates said, but with time and hard work, his English improved. He was ready to move back to Yamato Colony after only one year.


Illustration 08a

George: Thank you, Sam, for letting me use some of wait to harvest this first crop of tomatoes.

Sam (friend): You’re an honest, hard-working man, Sukeji. I trust you will pay me back for the seeds I have given you. Best of luck to you.

George: Thank you very much and please call me George now. It’s a name I got used to in Eau Gallie and I like it. It’s easier for Americans to say.

Narrator: After a few short years …


Illustration 08

Sam: It’s amazing how your tomato fields have grown, George! What’s your secret?

George: Secret? I don’t have one, but I do raise my plant beds so the heavy rains drain away from the plant roots. Then they don’t rot. It works very well.

Sam: Where are you selling your produce?

George: Well, I had this great idea. I’m selling vegetables through a mail order business and shipping them by the Florida East Coast Railway.

Sam: You’re a rich man now, George. I hope you’re putting all your profits safely away in the bank.

Slight Pause

Narrator: George’s life was not all hard work. He fished, visited with other colonists, enjoyed baseball games, and participated in community events.


Illustration 09

Adult: (excitedly) The Fourth of July parade is so much fun.

Child: Here it comes! Here it comes! The parade is coming!

Child: Oh, look at Miss Liberty!

Child: Here comes the band! There’s Uncle Joe playing the trombone.

Child: Look, a giant tomato!

Child: Oh, mommy, who are those people?

Adult: They’re the Japanese settlers from Yamato Colony.

Settler: What’s that big thing on the back of their wagon?

Adult: Gosh, honey, I don’t know.

Settler: Oh, look what’s next!

Narrator: As the years passed, George’s business grew and he became well known as a successful farmer and businessman. But all that changed one day in the late 1920’s.

Late 1920's

Illustration 10

George: My money! My money! Where’s my money!

Narrator: George, like so many people, lost all his money when the Florida

banks failed in the late 19201s. With little n1ore than his land and a lot of hard work, George began again to build his dream.

Cultural Component Note:

South Florida real estate had become a popular investment opportunity in the early 1920’s. However, it did not last. Due to poor real estate reviews embargoes placed on everything but foodstuffs, and anti-Florida, propaganda in northern newspapers, land sates began to flounder. Then the blockage of the Miami harbor by an overturned three mast ship for several weeks followed by a major hurricane all contributed to the 1926 Land Bust. Banks and investors stopped trusting the “paper” millionaires as money and credit ran out.

Circa 1930

Illustration 11

Sam: I haven’t seen you in a 1011g time, George. Where are you living? What are you doing?

George: Well, you know my bank failed and I lost everything but my land. I’m truck farming and trying to get back some of what I lost. It’s hard, but I’m ok.

Sam: That’s good, George. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.

George: Well, I’m putting my money into land these days … no more

banks for me! So if you hear of any good sales, let me know.

Narrator: After years of hard work and living frugally, George became, once again, a prosperous landowner. Until …


Illustration 12

… a world away, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, thereby drawing the United States into World War II. It was the winter of 1941.

George’s assets were frozen and his business was seized. Members of the National Guard protected him. When he wished to travel outside the county, he needed permission from the U.S. Attorney’s office. It was a difficult time not only for George, but for all Japanese and

Japanese-Americans living in the United States.

Fortunately for George, these restrictions lasted only several months and before long, he returned to his land where his crops continued to thrive.

As the years went by, George contemplated another major decision. Finally, in 1967, he was ready. At the age of 80, George Sukeji Morikami became an American citizen.


Illustration 13

Narrator: A few weeks later George was coaxed by friends to attend a city council meeting where a surprise awaited.

Mr. Avery: And now, as Mayor of Delray Beach, it gives me great pleasure to name George Morikami, “Honorary Mayor of Delray Beach”!

George: Oh, thank you, thank you. I’m Japanese, American, and now Honorary Mayor, too! Thank you, thank you.


Illustration 14a

Sam: How are you doing these days, George? Are you ok? How are those pineapples coming along?

George: Everything is good, but you know I’m still trying to give some of my land to the people of this county. I’ve tried three times and I’m ready to give up. Do you have any ideas?

Sam: Well, I do know a couple of county commissioners. Let me talk with them.


Illustration 14

Finally, in 1974, the county accepted George’s offer. Little did he know that his drean1 of a community park where people could learn a little bit about his native land of Japan would eventually develop into the entire Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.


Illustration 15

George Sukeji Morikami died on February 29, 1976 at the age of 89. He is remembered every day at The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, but especially at The Morikami’s summer Bon (bone) Festival. Obon is the time when Japanese welcome their ancestors’ spirits as they return to earth for several days each year. Grave sites are visited and the joyous celebration is marked by folk dancers, drummers, food, fun and games. At the end of the event, lanterns commemorating the deceased are lit and floated on water, lighting the spirits’ way back to their world.

George Sukeji Morikami’s dream of orchards in Japan never came true, but his dream of farming and his dream of giving a gift to the people of his adopted country did.