The Subway Pusher


Tokyo is much like a huge industrial machine, constantly oiled and fine-tuned and regulated to ensure that it runs without a hitch. It is home to 13 million people – 13 million cogs constantly on the move. To sustain this industrious system, the city has employed men to pack their fellow men away into subway cars during rush hours.

These blue-uniformed pushers, called oshiya, work for two sessions that last between 60-90 minutes each day. They are forced to work hurriedly as trains run every 2-3 minutes during peak periods. Two men are assigned to each car, one per door. With white-gloved hands, they push at people’s backs and behinds to cram the cars past its legal limit. These pushers (some of whom are rumored to be unemployed sumo wrestlers) often announce their intentions and call out for passengers inside the trains to squeeze closer together in hopes of accommodating more riders.

Before the doors close, they make a final check ensuring that no coattails or baggages are left peeking out. Once everything is secure, they signal the conductors, step back, wait for the next trains to arrive and the awkwardness to start all over again. For despite having been employed since the 1930s, these oshiyas still haven’t solved the dilemma of finding a proper body part to push on their fellow men.



Photos by Michael Wolf, via

Writer KC Hong is from a long, long line of Chinese people. Thankfully, her grandparents decided to settle in Malaysia. At the age of 3, she was sent off to school because her parents couldn’t stand her chattiness. But after years of being a full-time Asian, she is finally rebelling and embracing that chatty kid. You may find this part-time Asian writing, doodling or getting lost.