My corner of photojournalism isn’t exactly front-line war reporting. But I think this story was about the closest I’ve come to being physically assaulted in Japan so far.
Conveniently, I live close by the most crowded rail route in Tokyo.
It was a miserable wet winter morning, which as well as making everyone really depressed, means the trains are noticeably busier. Considering how angry people look in the pics, I’m glad I took the photos during the morning rush hour when everyone was sober.
This guy wasn’t happy about me taking his photo . . .
Nor were the people in this train. I was pinned against the far door and was holding the camera against the ceiling. I didn’t have the nerve to use flash (!) so there’s lots of digital noise.
The Japanese transport companies calculate crowding as a % of the trains official maximum capacity, ie when all the seats and standing spaces are taken. The line I take into Tokyo has a rush hour crowding rate of 220% – which is why people can sleep standing up on the way to work. It’s also why the line has the most chikan in Tokyo.
Things could be worse though – this is what I wrote in my story:
Though overcrowding is still a big problem, there is a surprising lack of protest from commuters, something perhaps explained by the history of the network. Imagining trains more packed than those of today might be difficult, but crowding actually used to be much, much worse. Pity the commuters of the ’50s and ’60s. Then, the average rush hour train was packed to over 300 percent capacity. “There were injuries when the carriage windows broke,” says Itoh.
Heres a link to all my Tokyo commuter photos
All the gory details are here (pdf)