The platform at Tsukiji is a knit mass of humanity, a collection both perfectly still but also humming with tiny, insect-like movements. There's a way people stand in anticipation, leaning slightly forward and peering out of the corners of their eyes, waiting for something to change but not wanting to delay its onset. A watched pot, and all.
The woman in front of me has long black hair that shines dully under the fluorescent lights and runs down to her back. Wind from the coming train down the tunnel buffets her hair and pushes it to the right, into the arm and shoulders of a man who loosely holds her hand.
A man's at my side. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder. He tries to hide his cough beneath his gauze mask, but his whole body shudders, rattling down his body, from his pressed three-piece charcoal suit to the black umbrella with its brown faux-leather tip.
The train arrives. More wind carries across the platform and we all sway like wildflowers in a breeze, hair, suits, and coats. I can't see the man behind me, but I hear him shift his folded newspaper from his left armpit to his right armpit and huff a short sigh.
The train is six cars long and when it comes to rest before us is when the frenzy begins. I face the fourth car from the front, the doors open, and out spill the salarymen, shoppers, and even a couple gaijin like me. Stuffed into the packed compartment, they flood out like a wave crashes on a breaker, finding cracks between waiting passengers to move, brushing aside me in spaces I didn't know could fit them.
For a few seconds the train is only part-full, a vacuum about to be filled. There's a silence that lasts for the time it takes to check my watch to see how long it will last. This is the only moment where everything is completely still and I hold my breath because I couldn't breathe even if I want to.
Then the train's speakers chime and I surge forward, and the water that just flowed out ebbs back, carrying me into the train and out and away from the station, no longer one in a densely packed mass. Suits stitch together, umbrellas interlace, and hair and skin become a tangle of flesh and mass where one person is indistinguishable from the next.
I'm the sagging-faced salaryman commuting an hour each way to work and unable to get a seat, clutching my briefcase lest it be torn from my hands and carried off beyond my grasp. I'm the young mother burying her child's face in her purple blouse while I bury my face in his shoulder and rock back and forth, held up by larger men who also can't move.
I'm the woman from the platform with the long hair who has lost the hand of her companion. I'm the man whose newspaper has fallen to the ground and is unrecoverable. I'm the man in the dapper suit with a cough that shakes the train starting at the tip of his umbrella. I'm the young white gaijin with the nonetheless receding hair and a burgeoning beer gut clinging to a hanging hand-hold, eyes wide.