There’s definitely a beauty to the controlled chaos of the morning commute in Japan’s capital.

If you were going to describe the Tokyo morning commute in a single word, “crowded” would definitely be the one to use. This is, after all, the place where you might need multiple station attendants to help push the passengers far enough into the carriage for the doors to shut.

However, it’s not just the trains that are crowded at rush hour, but the tracks too. During the busiest part of the morning, it’s not unusual for trains to be less than five minutes apart on the most heavily used lines, and none are more heavily used than Japan Railways’ Yamanote Line, which loops around downtown Tokyo. To illustrate just how many trains are rolling along the Yamanote during peak commuting hours, Japanese YouTube user badger has put together this animated map of a typical morning for the central Tokyo train network, with the Yamanote Line (山手線) marked in bright green.

The video starts at 4:24 in the morning, when the first train of the day appears on the sky blue Keihin Tohoku Line (京浜東北線), for which some trains pass through the same stations (though on different platforms) as the Yamanote. Roughly an hour later, at 5:30, things are already starting to get busy, with Yamanote trains picking up and dropping off passengers at major stations such as Tokyo (東京), Shinagawa (品川), Shibuya (渋谷), Shinjuku (新宿), and Akihabara (秋葉原).

▼ The video also shows trains travelling on the Shonan Shinjuku (湘南新宿), Saikyo (埼京), and Rinkai (りんかい) Lines.

But things really start buzzing around 7 o’clock. For Tokyo-area residents, a one-hour commute is considered pretty reasonable, and while most companies start work at 9, some offices begin at 8, so 7 a.m. could be considered the start of rush hour.

In general, though, most office jobs in Japan start at 9, which means that at 8 o’clock, the map starts to look like a solid mass of trains.

Things don’t really start tapering off until the time gets close to 10 a.m., by which point if you’re not already at work, odds are you’re working an afternoon shift.

As startling as the snapshots are, it’s even more mesmerizing seeing badger’s model in motion, with so many trains circling about it’s almost hypnotic, with some commenter likening it to watching the plates revolving around a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, or dishes spinning about while getting heated up in a microwave. Odds are the commuters actually stuck on those trains every morning don’t have quite such a whimsical image of the situation, though.

Source: YouTube/badger via Jin
Images: YouTube/badger

Follow Casey on Twitter, where taking the Yamanote Line every morning is something he definitely doesn’t miss about his college days.