Japanese Garden Heusden
Kame no Shima – The Island of the Turtle
The traditional Japanese garden is rich in philosophic symbolism. A significant example is referring to animals with a mythical background like the crane or turtle, Tsuru and Kame in Japanese respectively. The turtle symbolizes a long and happy life because the animal can live for a relatively long time. This is why centuries ago, a proverb originated in Japan saying ‘A crane lives for a 1000 years and a turtle lives for 10.000 years’.
Throughout all of Asia there are stories and legends surrounding the turtle that claim that the animal has godlike powers. The Black Tortoise of the North is for example one of the four guardians of the wind directions according to the Feng Sui principle and geomancy. The other guardians are the Azure Dragon of the West, the Vermilion Bird of the South and the White Tiger of the East. According to the legend, the Black Tortoise is also known as the Black Warrior that had a snake for a tail.
In Taoism, there is a legend claiming that there is an enormous turtle swimming in the Bohai sea. This giant turtle has three islands on his back which belong to the eight immortals. The eight immortals are mythical creatures that know the secret of nature.
In the traditional Japanese garden, the turtle is mostly portrayed by an island. The island does not have to be in the water. It can also be surrounded by gravel in the Zen rock garden or by green in the strolling garden for example. For a small Japanese garden at a wellness center, Yokoso Japanese Gardens was asked to develop a unique and original design. The island of the turtle concept was perfect for this as the symbolism of the turtle is a happy and long life, which is in line with the beautiful things that a wellness center has to offer.