The Forest Floor - Mark Iandolo

In the dense urban jungle that is Tokyo – below the canopy of modern skyscrapers – rests this Torii Gate-lined stairway.

A FOREST OF HIGH RISES

Imagine you’re in a bustling city. You’re walking through the main shopping district, below buildings hundreds of feet tall. You can’t help but look up as you walk, noticing building after building after building soaring into the sky, forming a canopy of modern skyscrapers. Occasionally, a colossal masterpiece stretches beyond the canopy: the Tokyo Skytree, the Willis Tower, or the Empire State Building. These form an emergent layer of the jungle. You’re in awe of the modern wonders, but you can’t help but think, “It’s all moving too fast.” These towers represent man’s impressive achievements, yet also represent a startling statistic: the fact that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas.

As you think about this, you look down to the urban jungle’s ground level.

THE FOREST FLOOR

Hundreds upon hundreds of people seem to be moving at light speed all around you. Dozens of cars are whizzing by in the streets.

You need a break from the chaos, so you turn down a side street, follow it for a while, and make another turn. Finally, you realize you’re alone. And you’re at the foot of a random staircase that – despite being in the middle of a futuristic megatropolis – is lined with wooden gates that seem hundreds of years old.

You stand there for a moment, appreciating the serenity you’ve managed to find. Eventually, you ascend the staircase and find a shrine that was built on a small hill in the 13 or 1400s. You smile, because who would have ever thought you’d end up at this place? You take a look around and head back out among the skyscrapers, happy to have the brief respite.

TECHNOLOGY, HISTORY

Robotic legs. MRI machines. Maybe one day a cure for cancer. Not so elegantly put: humans create awesome stuff. But let’s not lose sight of the old to bring on the new. Places like the Hie Shrine in Tokyo are worth protecting. To preserve cultural heritage, and also because, you know what? It’s pretty freaking cool to find a Torii-gate lined stairway on a wooded hill a hundred feet from skyscrapers.

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