It's Tuesday night, 9:30 pm. I'm in Shinjuku, Tokyo, heading back home from a bookstore. It's late and rainy, and the path's a bit confusing, so I ask a fellow pedestrian in my mangled travel Japanese to point me to the train station. He does so, indicating that he's headed that way himself. We walk together, taking a shortcut to get out of the rain, navigating through a lonely section of the huge underground arcade.
Finally, I see a third person walking nearby. A fourth, a fifth. And then suddenly, the number explodes. I see twenty people around me. A hundred. Two hundred. And I'm moving in a giant sea of humanity toward the train station entrance, a human millipede in motion.
We whiz through the fare gates, a solid block of mostly-black-clad flesh. This is like having all of Heathrow packed into a single train station. There must be over ten thousand people passing through here, just in the areas where I'm walking. It reminds me of that moment at the end of large concerts or sporting events where everyone's heading out in the same direction at once. But this isn't peak rush hour -- it's hours in, and the people are still coming, hordes of tired office workers heading home, young people, shoppers, and the very occasional foreigner or woman in a kimono to keep things interesting. Some carry dripping umbrellas, others walk in wet jackets, while others just look damp. The noise of our collective footsteps and occasional conversation reverberates, a continuous companion as we make our way forward.
Very soon, most of us will have made our way to the right platform and crowded into trains which get emptier and emptier at every successive station, as Tokyo's huddled masses yearning to get home disembark, looking forward to a good night's sleep.
I have chills. This is what a megacity feels like.