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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

You’ve probably read about it or seen on TV what it’s like to ride the Tokyo metro during rush hour. Here, we see photographer Michael Wolf take his camera and us underground into Tokyo’s metro for his latest series, a place with little oxygen, little space and no room for lost dignity. Sardines in a can doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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Tokyo is home to one of the most efficient underground rail systems in the world. It’s also the busiest, with 8 million passengers a day. Tokyo locals are used to being crowded but the metropolis looks like it could burst at the seams when rush hour hits. With so many people crammed into the cars, you can imagine why a “Pusher” is necessary, someone to run along the length of the train as the doors close to push in any limbs, bodies and briefcases so that the train and get on its way. Luckily for the female passengers, the train cars are segregated between male and female.

Being from the West, we can hardly imagine what this experience must be like. It’s nothing compared to London’s tubes, which can get pretty packed themselves. Michael Wolf took these portraits in 2010 as part of a series called “Tokyo Compression,” appropriately enough.

If you ride the metro in the Japanese capital, it’s best to keep your claustrophobia and agoraphobia under control. It’s one tight squeeze. The crowded trains, long commutes, tired and over-worked faces, cheeks pushed up against the glass… This is what a daily commuter’s life looks like in Tokyo. Michael Wolf rides Tokyo’s metros and this is what he sees.

“Tokyo Compression” by Michael Wolf

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We’ll think twice about riding the metro during rush hour! Have you ever visited Tokyo? 

All images are from Michael Wolf.

 


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