KBartlettBonsaiIn Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, I stood in contemplation before a squat, impeccably groomed bonsai tree that was approximately 180 years my senior. Far more than a “pretty little plant,” the tree inspired in me a sense of reverence and awe at what humans and the natural world are capable of.

Perhaps I was just thinking too much, but the buildings and grounds of the Meiji Shrine are permeated with an air of tradition and earnest devotion that are impossible to overlook.

Even the large forest that surrounds the shrine, though it appears to be a natural feature, is itself a product of human efforts. According to the shrine’s English-language website, the forest consists of around 175,000 trees, the original 100,000 of which were planted by the hands of volunteers.

Courtesy of this forest–an excellent buffer against traffic noise–the Meiji Shrine is remarkably peaceful. In this tranquil environment, it is all the easier to appreciate the significance of the Shinto ceremonies performed on site, as well as the shrine’s East Gardens, which are home to, among other things, irises that are renowned for their beauty.

KBartlettBioPicture-300Keith is a student at Hobart College in Geneva, New York, and is currently pursuing degrees in Writing and Rhetoric and Asian Languages and Cultures. He is new to travel writing, having been introduced to this medium during his studies in 2008. Keith cites one travel piece in particular, Tim Butcher’s Blood River, as the source of his interest in becoming a travel writing author himself. At this time, Keith’s primary writing focus is Japan—its history, cultures, and people—but he is eager to see more of the world and expand his repertoire of subject matter when the opportunity presents itself.