By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
A drive on Yamato Road in the late 1980s piqued the new Boca Raton resident’s interest.
Donald Takeshi Yoshino said he wondered what connection, if any, to Japan the road had.
“I said to myself, ‘Yamato sounds like a Japanese name to me.’” he recalled. “I started asking people and they said there is a museum on Jog Road.”
That museum is Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Over time, Yoshino said he learned that there was a Japanese colony in the Boca/Delray area and he began getting involved at Morikami.
“I started talking to them,” he said of the staff at Morikamil. “And because of my roots I was very interested in getting more involved.”
It was his involvement over the years that landed the Boca resident and architect recognition from the government of Japan when he was recently awarded with the honor of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays.
The award is one of the highest ranking civilian honors awarded to those from other countries. The honor is in recognition of Yoshino’s commitment to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and his work to promote an understanding of Japanese culture.
A third generation Japanese-American, Yoshino was born in an internment camp in Colorado during WWII and then was educated and started his career in California before moving to Boca Raton in the late 1980s, when he became aware of the Morikami Museum.
Yoshino served on the board of trustees for the Morikami Museum from 1995-2007, including acting as president. He was instrumental in helping the museum achieve national accreditation from the American Association of Museums and served as a volunteer consultant for the construction of the Japanese Gardens including overseeing the transition from installation completion and continuing maintenance.
“One thing led to another and I got more involved,” he said. “I became a member, then served on the board of trustees and ultimately was the president of the board of trustees for a while,” he said. “I tried to do as much as I could and help where I could.”
“Donald’s support of the Morikami, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in June 2017, and his accomplishments in the years he served as a trustee greatly helped solidify its reputation as a major museum,” said Consul General of Japan for Florida Ken Okaniwa. “He implemented many new cultural programs and education initiatives that strengthen the friendship between Japan and Florida.”
Yoshino was conferred the decoration by Consul General of Japan Ken Okaniwa on Dec. 1 at the opening ceremony of the Consulate’s National Day Reception celebrating the 84th birthday of His Majesty, Emperor Akihito of Japan.
He admits he didn’t know much about the award when he found out he was nominated. But after some research, he said he was immediately honored.
“I started looking it up on the web,” he said. “I said, ‘Well this is pretty cool.’ It is much than I ever imagined. I was quite honored and pleased.”
He said the medal he was awarded is absolutely beautiful. It is a silver star with a stone in it and has a chrysanthemum on it, which is an emblem of the emperor.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “It is really special.”