I’ve been revisiting videos that I took of Tokyo before I departed in the fall of 2013. This was one of the most exhilarating moments on the Yamanote Line as the Shinjuku-bound train hurtles along the elevated rail line from Shin Okubo Station, past the vertical neon billboards of the red-light district in Kabukicho and the cacophony of Shinjuku Station’s East Exit. Before arriving at Shinjuku, one has this sense of being compressed in the density of Shin-Okubo’s Koreatown, as buildings whip by just a few meters from the tracks, and then suddenly Yasukuni Dori (formerly known as Taisho Dori) comes into view. The six-lane boulevard is a stark contrast to the tightly built-up neighbourhoods of central Tokyo, a kind of Haussmanian intervention which was carved out of the city to create a fire break and evacuation route after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed much of the city.
When I first took the JR Yamanote Line into Shinjuku Station, I felt instantly transported to scenes out of Bladerunner with the massive video-screen billboards glowing in the rainy evening. While Bladerunner portrayed the future city in a dystopian light, Tokyo for me was its antithesis as a vibrant and bustling urban spectacle. Right after Meiji Dori, a piazza-like square opens up outside Shinjuku Station’s East Exit, framed by a wall of buildings topped with cubic billboards and filled with throngs of people. The intensity of Shinjuku is perhaps only comparable to Shibuya a few stops to the south, but by numbers Shinjuku is the busiest station on earth (early 4 million people pass through its bowels everyday, transferring from commuter lines to the inner-city subway lines on 36 separate platforms or being channeled out from one of its 200 or so exits).
This video by Adam Magyar focuses more on the crowds waiting on the platform at Shinjuku Station, which at high speed captures the movement of individuals in incredible detail. Idiosyncrasies, stolen glances, and expressions of boredom make up the vital backdrop of this cross-section of Shinjuku.