Tokyo Rush Hour Seen Through A Foreigner’s Lens Goes Viral

A picture from 'Tokyo Compression' by Michael Wolf
A series of photographs by German photographer Michael Wolf called ‘Tokyo Compression’ has gone viral on the Japanese internet, as netizens discovered an alternative way of looking at life in Japan’s capital.

The photographs portray the crammed trains that characterise the morning rush hour in Tokyo; beleaguered bodies packed together; fatigued faces pushed against steamed-up carriage windows. While this may seem like yet another working day to residents of the metropolis, for those who have never experienced the rush hour in major Japanese cities the experience can be somewhat bizarre.

Netizen reactions to the photographs, which range from anger to amazement, are translated below the article from that first featured the pictures. The full series of photographs can be viewed at Michael Wolf Photography.


Strange? 18 Photographs of Crowded Tokyo Trains As Seen By a Foreigner.

When a foreigner comes to Tokyo to travel, it seems that the ‘crowded train’ which is a familiar sight during the rush hour on weekdays, appears as something quite strange to them.


A crowded train in the Tokyo rush hour, which is said to be the toughest rush hour in the world. In fact, if you live in Tokyo it feels very normal to be packed into a train like sardines, but when you see this again through the pictures, you can almost understand the feeling of a foreigner seeing it for the first time.

The photographs below are by a German photographer called Michael Wolf. The expressions on the faces of the people in the photographs that he took on the Tokyo subway are dark; some people are closing their eyes as though they might be trying to escape their stress; some people frown as they try to bear the pain of the commute.

Tokyo Compression 02 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 03 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 04 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 05 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 06 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 07 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 08 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 09 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 10 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 11 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 12 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 13 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 14 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 15 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 16 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 17 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 18 by Michael Wolf

Tokyo Compression 19 by Michael Wolf

Comments from


Well, I think the commute is abnormal.


Even for a country bumpkin like me this is an abnormal scene.


It’s really like the gas chambers they used on the Jews.


It’s more crowded than the trains going to Auschwitz.


This would drive me crazy..


Yeah, because the crowded morning trains in Tokyo are a microcosm of the suffocating nature of Japanese society.


Nah, I wouldn’t want to ride a train like that.


Why is he being so provocative in the last picture?


You’d be pissed if you got your picture taken at a moment like that. Try to imagine what it would be like if it were you.


The woman in photo 3 looks like she’s getting her nipple tweaked.


Put it another way: why doesn’t the commute look like this in cities overseas?

Comments from Yutori2ch Blog:

ゆとりある名無し :

Why is he just taking pictures of people’s faces as he pleases? I want to call this kind of guy a fucking foreigner, not just a foreigner [netizen uses kanji for ‘harm’ instead of ‘foreign/outside’; both are pronounced ‘gaijin’ when added to the character for ‘person’].

名無しさん@ニュース2ちゃん :

Crowded trains are really horrible.

[anon]   :

The ‘fuck you’ guy looks really pissed at having his photo taken.

ゆとりある名無し :

Don’t just take photos of other people, twat.

ゆとりある名無し :

Camera voyeurism…

名無し :

The guy taking the pictures and the people who had their pictures taken are both disgusting www

ゆとりある名無し :

Bastards who get on that kind of crowded train without caring shouldn’t get pissed off at having their picture taken like that.

ゆとりある名無し :

Human scum who reveal the faces of innocent people and try to make fools out of them. And the people running this site too. Shouldn’t the pictures be all rights reserved if this kind of photo is taken?

ゆとりある名無し :

When you look at that guy in the last shot, you really understand that people’s personalities come out in the way they look.

ゆとりある名無し :

The bastards who took those photos can all die.

ゆとりある名無し :

Did the photographer himself have permission?

ゆとりある名無し :

I made a mistake above. I meant to say that the guy who slyly took those photos can die. He took them without asking, and then revealed them online. Don’t justify them by calling them artistic work.

ゆとりある名無し :

Tokyo is Japan.
Still, recently the morals of the Germans these days have become even worse than those of the French.

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