Compared to some of the cooler or more elegant-sounding parts of Tokyo, like Jiyugaoka (“Freedom Hill”) or Akihabara (“Field of Autumn Leaves”), the Shinagawa neighborhood has a pretty dull name, meaning essentially “Merchandise River.” Still, you have to admit it’s appropriate. Located near the mouth of the Sumidagawa river, for generations Shinagawa has seen plenty of cargo ships sail past as they ferry goods in and out of Tokyo’s ports.
The name even works in a figurative economic sense, as Shinagawa Station is a major rail hub that thousands of workers pass through every day on their way from their homes in the suburbs to their offices downtown. The facility is designed to keep passengers efficiently flowing in and out, but this morning the “river” got blocked due to a problem with the trains, resulting in perhaps the most crowded scene of rush hour in Japan that we’ve ever seen.
While Japanese business norms mean plenty of overtime, most offices still start around nine in the morning. Factor in an average one-way trip of one hour for most people working in downtown Tokyo, and that means that somewhere between 8 and 8:30 is the absolute peak commuting time.
Shinagawa Station sees an especially large number of passengers at that time, since it’s a transfer station for the Yamanote loop line that runs around the center of the city. Located at the southeastern edge of downtown, Shinagawa serves as the primary access point to the Yamanote Line not just for residents of suburban Tokyo, but also for many commuters coming from Kawasaki, Yokohama, and other cities to the south of Japan’s capital.
But as reliable as Japan’s public transportation system is, even here things occasionally go wrong. At 8:07 on Friday morning, Japan Railways stopped the trains on the Yamanote Line to investigate an unspecified safety issue, right when many people were making their way through Shinagawa Station. How many people?
品川駅うわあ... みんな今日は学校も会社も休みにしよう http://t.co/k9tyA6RwpC—
さおり まつい (@hunahunasaori) October 01, 2015
あきっぽいど (@rencho0O) October 01, 2015
With the flow of passengers brought to a halt, the part of the station passengers traverse on their way to transfer to the Yamanote was transformed into a sea of humanity.
▼ Or a wall of humanity, depending on the angle you look at it from.
伊藤 優希 (@potetoyuki) October 01, 2015
まつもと@減量中 (@nue96xxx) October 01, 2015
Service was eventually restored, but the build-up of passengers waiting to get on the trains made the platforms and station interior as crowded as the inside of the carriages.
▼ “Things are crazy at Shinagawa Station! I can hardly breathe.”
品川駅どえらいことなってる。 息苦しい。 http://t.co/xregv9woQG—
yamachan. (@spyamachan) October 01, 2015
▼ “Shinagawa Station is so gross right now (ーー；)”
ゆう@10/12マモFCイベ (@yuu_hiroc) October 01, 2015
▼ “At Shinagawa’s Yamanote transfer area. I can’t move (^_^;)”
山ノ手品川なぅ。 動けない…(^_^;) http://t.co/Ylbb3Ek0SB—
さんり@愛花 (@icedollp4) October 01, 2015
One of our unlucky workers actually got stuck in this mess (he might even be mixed in somewhere with the sizeable portion of Japan’s population seen in these photos. How did he describe the ordeal?
“Shinagawa Station is already one of the busier stations in Tokyo, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this kafka-esque nightmare when I entered the ticket gates this morning.”
(@sasakimos) October 01, 2015
Thankfully, inconveniences of such a massive magnitude are few and far between when using Japan’s trains. In the event that you do find yourself stuck in such a situation, please remember to stay calm, follow the instructions of the station employees, and kill time by reading RocketNews24 on your smartphone.