Oddly beautiful to watch, yet hellish to be in.

Sitting at the southeast corner of downtown Tokyo, the Shinagawa neighborhood gets its name from shina, meaning “merchandise,” and kawa, or “river.” The name is a reference to the merchants’ cargo ships that would sail up along the nearby Sumidagawa River, which empties into Tokyo Bay and remains an important shipping waterway to this day.

But in the modern era, there’s another economic stream that goes through Shinagawa. Every weekday morning, office workers come pouring out of Shinagawa Station as they head work in one of the nearby skyscrapers, and in this facinating and frightening time-lapse video from Japanese Twitter user @sigeyosiinoue, the mass of flowing humanity is packed so crazily tight that it looks as much like a rapid river as anything else.

@sigeyosiinoue himself didn’t need to be at work or school just yet, apparently, and so he staked out a vantage point, set up his camera, and filmed the time-lapse video. While it’s only 59 seconds long, he actually spent half an hour recording it, starting at around 8:26 a.m. and finishing 30 minutes later. Multiple rail lines feed into Shinagawa, including the Yamanote Line that circles the Tokyo city center, and at rush hour there’s a train arriving at just about any given moment, which keeps the flow of workers, even at more than a dozen people wide, going strong for the entire video. It’s not until the last five seconds, which would correspond to about 8:53, that things just barely start to quiet down.

Reactions from other Twitter users included:

“It looks like a conveyer belt that’s pumping some sort of raw materials into a factory.”
“They look like worker ants.”
“I used to live in Tokyo, but watching this, there’s no way I could do that now.”
“Haha I was walking in that crowd, and when I looked up I saw a guy filming us.”

While commuting through that crowd every day must be tiring and stressful, there’s a kind of mesmerizing beauty to watching it. If you’d like to do some high-volume people watching, @sigeyosiinoue’s video looks to have been recorded the video from a seat in Blue Bottle Coffee’s Shinagawa branch. And as hard as it may be to believe, Shinagawa gets even more crowded on the rare occasions that the some problem causes Japan’s ordinarily reliable trains to shut down.

It’s also worth pointing out that Shinagawa Station isn’t always crowded. For example, as this video shows…


…if you show up at 4;50 in the morning, you’ll have the place entirely to yourself, save for a few drunks sleeping off a bender after missing the last train the night before.

Source: Hamster Sokuho, Twitter/@sigeyosiinoue

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s glad he doesn’t have to commute through Shinagawa.