The metabolism of a Tokyo Metro Station in 8 pictures.
When the masses of salarymen and women slide through the fare gates of the Tokyo subway system, they surrender themselves to a world of its own. An estimated 15 million people use the subway every day to commute to work, the equivalent of twice the population of Switzerland. This leads to masses of bodies queuing up on the platforms, clogging the escalators and shoving into already over capacity trains.
The sheer amount of people using the trains has produced phenomenons that are singular to Tokyo. For instance, it has led to the birth of a new profession. «Oshiyas», Pushers, are staff lined up on the platforms who help people find a free spot on the train. Or if there is none, help them to make one.
Japan is presumably the most polite country on the planet and people tend to keep their distance from each other. But when it comes to traveling with the metro, a different set of rules apply. Some people do bow however before they squeeze themselves into already overfilled wagons.
These pictures throw a glance at the endless tunnels and aisles that sprawl below the surface of the worlds biggest metropolitan area and documents the clashing of the anonymous masses with the individual.
The Tokyo subway system is operated by two different companies, the Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway. Additionally, a line by Japanese Railway circles the city. Thanks to the introduction of the Pasmo swipecards in 2005, commuters can now easily switch the lines without having to buy special tickets.
The Tokyo railway network is a vast apparatus of 45 bullet, main and suburban-overground lines, with another 13 underground.
The first train pushers were introduced a Shinjuku Station but can nowadays be found on most lines during rush hour. «I feel always sorry when I push people», says Shinya Kato, a student working part time as a pusher. «But without the pushing, the trains delay. It cannot be helped».
About 70% of commuters in Tokyo travel for more than an hour to get to work. While smartphones are becoming a more and more popular diversion, many can still be seen flicking through mangas.
A particularly disquieting demographic of the Tokyo subway system are the so called «Chikans», molesters that grope other passengers on the crowded trains. To protect the female population, women only wagons have been introduced during rush hours.
More than 15‘000 staff keep the Tokyo subway system running. «It is an exhausting job», Shinya Kato explains. «Workers have to have spiritual strength to work as railway employees».
Trains in Japan run on time and many commuters plan their travels down to the minute. Those people prefer to board the trains just before the doors close, meaning that they are the first to get off again.
Suicide is another problem for the operators of the Tokyo subway. To discourage people to throw themselves in front of a train, the rail companies charge the family of the deceased a penalty for the disruption of the service.