On behalf of His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan, Consul General of Japan Eiichi Kawahara conferred The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays upon Mrs. Chieko Mihori on June 26, 2012. The ceremony took place at the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, where Mrs. Mihori serves as the Vice President for Cultural Affairs. Chieko Mihori, along with her husband James, was instrumental in the founding of the Morikami, and has been a key member in its continued growth and success. James Mihori, the Vice President of Protocol, also received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in 2003, as did the Morikami’s former President, Larry Rosensweig, in 2005.
The Order of the Rising Sun is a royal award that was established in 1875, and is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of the nation. In Chieko Mihori’s case, the award was given in recognition of her long-time dedication as a trustee and board member of the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens since its inception and also in acknowledgment of her commitment to diffusing Japanese culture in the United States. Chieko Mihori is a Sogetsu Ikebana (flower arranging) teacher of the highest rank as well as an instructor in the Omete Senke School of tea ceremony. In addition to teaching flower arranging and tea ceremony, Mrs. Mihori also teaches and participates in traditional Japanese dances at festivals throughout the year.
Along with Consul General Kawahara, Deputy Consul General Yasushi Sato of the Consulate General of Japan in Miami and Morikami Park Administer Bonnie White LeMay presided over the conferring ceremony. After the medal and certificate were bestowed upon Mrs. Mihori, Cultural Director Tom Gregersen presented both of the Mihoris with a picture and plaque congratulating them on their awards and thanking them for their service. The ceremony took place on the 35th anniversary of the Morikami’s founding, and in the audience were multiple trustees, employees, and Mrs. Mihori’s students. Morikami President Randal Baker, former President Larry Rosensweig, First Vice President Frank Schnidman, and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Director Eric Call, Assistant Director Jennifer Cirillo, and Special Facilities Director John Herrick were also in attendance.
The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens opened in 1977, on land donated by George Morikami, the last remaining settler of an unsuccessful Japanese farming colony called Yamato. With help from James Mihori, George Morikami donated his lands to Palm Beach County and to the State of Florida to be used for educational purposes, particularly to teach the public about Yamato Colony and Japanese culture. Originally consisting of a single building, known as the Yamato-kan, the Morikami Museum quickly grew thanks to the joint efforts of Palm Beach County and Morikami, Inc. The main museum building opened in 1993, and features a tea room, library, galleries, auditorium, gift shop, café, and classrooms. The Morikami’s famed gardens opened in 2001, and range from the 8th to 20th centuries in design.
The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens is the only public museum in the United States dedicated to Japan. It attracts over 163,000 visitors every year.