Somewhere, Taoists state, in the middle of the ocean, there are some islands where immortals dwell. In Japanese literature, this belief is manifested in the form of a folktale about a fisherman named Urashima Taro who saves the life of a sea turtle, which in return, takes him to one of the immortal islands. There the fisherman marries a princess and becomes immortal. As time goes by, however, he is stricken with homesickness and decides to return to his old village. Sadly, not long after he sets foot on the familiar shore of his birthplace, the fisherman immediately grows old and dies.
From the fifth to eighth century, the Japanese word for “garden” was “shima”, meaning “island.” Contemplating upon the bareness and simplicity of a Zen rock garden, one may learn how to perceive the true substance of nature and see things beyond their meaningless appearances.