In the history of urban thought, density has been closely indexed to the idea of citylife. Drawing on commuters’ experiences and perceptions of crowds in and around Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, this article offers an ethnographic perspective on the relationship between urban crowds and life in the city. We advance understandings of the relations between the crowd and citylife through three categories of ‘crowd relations’– materiality, negotiation and inclusivity – to argue that the multiplicity of meanings which accrue to people’s encounters with crowds refuses any a priori definitions of optimum levels of urban density. Rather, the crowd relations gathered here are evocations of citylife that take us beyond the tendency to represent the crowd as a particular kind of problem, be it alienation, exhaustion or a threshold for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ densities. The portraits of commuter crowds presented capture the various entanglements between human and non-human, embodiment and mobility, and multiculture and the civic, through which citylife emerges as a mode of being with oneself and others.