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The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have now been rescheduled to 2021 to make sure that athletes, spectators and support staff remain as safe as possible from the COVID-19 corona virus. Keep an eye on the official website for more details and updates.
With 11,000 athletes from 200+ nations, competing for medals in 339 events across 33 sports and 50 disciplines, the atmosphere will be electric. The events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled from 24 July – 9 August, followed by the Paralympics from 25 August – 6 September.
If you are planning to visit during this period, you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience that you will want to make the most of. It’s exactly the right time now to be finalizing your plans, making a list of things to see and do, booking tickets, and learning the phrases you need to get you around.
Follow this guide and get ready for your trip of a lifetime to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
1. How do I get tickets to Tokyo 2020?
Only 30% of event tickets are allocated to international visitors, so demand will likely be very high and tickets will sell out fast. Tickets to both Olympic and Paralympic events are being released in a number of stages.
Where to buy Tokyo 2020 tickets for olympic events
If you are not a resident of Japan, you can only buy your tickets from a Tokyo 2020 authorized ticket reseller (click on the region tabs on that page to find your country’s authorized resellers.)
Many resellers may indicate that events are already ‘Sold Out’ when tickets have not even gone on sale yet. Keep in mind that sales windows for tickets are different in each country.
Some ticket resellers sell package deals including accommodation, tickets to various events and entrance fees to landmarks and sights around Tokyo, if you don’t want to plan all of the details of your trip yourself.
What’s the latest you can purchase Tokyo 2020 tickets?
An additional round of Tokyo 2020 tickets will be released to both locals and international visitors in spring, and will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. Register your interest with your authorized ticket reseller to make sure you don’t miss out.
Tickets for events will be available from ticket box offices on location in Tokyo from spring 2020 onwards.
2. Get around Tokyo with the JR Pass
The most cost-effective way to travel in Japan as an overseas visitor is on the trains with a JR Pass. This allows you to travel on all JR Tokyo metropolitan train lines, buses, ferry services, airport transfers, and take a shinkansen bullet train to the remote Olympic venues.
How to buy a JR Pass
- Purchase an exchange voucher from the official Japan Rail Pass website, and it will be shipped to you by post either before you leave or to your accommodation in Japan.
- Once in Japan, take the exchange order and your passport with your temporary visitor stamp in it to any JR Exchange counters at the airport terminal, shinkansen or metro stations to swap it for your JR Pass.
3. Is it hard to travel if I don’t know Japanese?
The Japanese government has invested a lot into training hospitality staff to speak and understand English. If you stick to the event venues, you’ll probably get by. However, if you want to shop, book tickets and see the sights around Tokyo, you’ll definitely need to know some basic Japanese phrases!
Use the Travel Phrasebook section in LingoDeer! You’ll be up and chatting to the locals in Japanese in no time.
4. Accommodation in Tokyo
If you check the popular hotel booking websites, you’ll see that many people have booked their accommodation well in advance. Book your accommodation as soon as you have finalized your travel dates!
- Ryokans – smaller inns or rooming houses are often more affordable than big hotels. These may provide you with a traditional cooked breakfast.
- Hostels and inns – Similar to Ryokans, you’ll find hostels and budget inns around the main stations near event venues.
- Airbnb and private rooms – Private rooms or tiny apartments will likely be available long after the hotels have booked out. These are great options located close to the Olympic venues.
If you plan to use a JR Pass to get around, you may find accommodation easier (and cheaper) in the outskirts of Tokyo, for example in Tachikawa or Shinagawa. If you don’t mind a bit more travel time, a short shinkansen ride to the next interchange is also a good option.
5. Tokyo 2020 sports and venues
In Tokyo, the venues are situated in two major zones: The Heritage Zone makes use of the venues built originally for the Tokyo 1964 Games, and the Tokyo Bay Zone contains the state-of-the-art venues built for Tokyo 2020.
Use the interactive map of event venues on the Tokyo 2020 website to see where they are and how to get to them.
Tip: Wikipedia has the clearest calendar of events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Use this to plan your schedule.
The baseball and softball games will be played at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball and the Yokohama Baseball Stadium.
Most of the football (soccer) games will be played outside Tokyo at the Sapporo, Miyagi, Ibaraki Kashima, Saitama, and the International Yokohama stadiums. Sapporo will also host the marathon and race-walking events as it is much cooler than Tokyo.
Want to see the 5 new sports of the 2020 Olympics?
This year’s Olympics in Tokyo adds five new sports, popular with younger athletes: baseball and softball (in Fukushima and Yokohama as mentioned above), as well as skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing, and karate.
Catch both the judo and karate events at the Nippon Budokan, while sport climbing is paired with 3×3 basketball at the Aomi Urban Sports Park. You’ll find the skateboarding at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, along with the BMX events. Depending on the weather and the waves, surfing events will be at the Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach.
Visiting Japan but not the Olympics
Keep the dates of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in mind if you are planning to visit Japan and want to avoid pricey accommodation. The Olympics run from the 24 July – 9 August, and the Paralympics from 25 August – 6 September. If you avoid staying close to the event locations around those dates, you’ll find affordable accommodation easily.
Want to see the Tokyo 2020 torch relay in Japan?
It starts in Fukushima on 26 March and will visit all 47 prefectures before arriving at the New National Stadium in Tokyo for the Opening Ceremony.
Japan wants to highlight the reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, which is why the Olympic flame will stay in Miyake, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures for a few days each. The flame’s route is scheduled to coincide with the sakura (cherry blossom) season so it is a fantastic time to visit Japan and experience the lead-up to the Olympics, even if you don’t want to attend any of the sporting events.
Use the Olympic Torch Relay map and schedule to plan your trip to Japan to coincide with this event.
6. Tips to help you with the summer heat and humidity
Japanese summers are famous for being hot and sticky. They typically last from the end of May to the end of September and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics falls right in the middle of this time. As it’s easy to get carried away in the heat of an exciting event in the center of the crowd, here are some tips that will help you stay cool.
- Dry yourself off: Carry a hand towel with you to dry your hands after you visit the restrooms, and a light handkerchief to wipe away any sweat. Tenugui are traditional long cotton towels– dampen one with a little water from your water bottle and wear it as a scarf or hat.
- Get that air moving: Grab a traditional uchiwa or folding fan, or see if you can find a tiny battery-powered personal fan while you are in Akihabara.
- Protect yourself from the sun: Wear a hat, sunscreen or use a parasol to get out of the sun.
- Take a cool break: Convenience stores (konbini) are stocked with cold drinks, snacks, and are typically very well air-conditioned.
- Stay hydrated: Carry a bottle of water, and pop into a convenience store to buy a new one when you run out.
7. Foods you simply must try in Tokyo
Japan is well known for its amazing fresh seafood, usually prepared as sushi, sashimi and tempura. But there are many other taste sensations that residents will swear cool you down and provide you with tons of energy in summer.
Try some unagi eel in a sticky and sweet soy sauce served on a bed of rice. Buckwheat soba noodles or somen noodles made from wheat are both fabulous and cooling when dipped into a cold soup.
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If you are looking for something sweet, kakigori will cool you down with shaved ice, traditionally served with chewy mochi bits, sweet red bean paste and a green tea syrup.
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8. Best sights in and around Tokyo that you can’t miss
In between Olympic events, you will definitely have time to visit the shrines, museums, traditional gardens, shops and restaurants near the sporting venues. The events in Tokyo, especially in the Heritage Zone are conveniently located near popular shopping and tourist locations.
- Don’t miss Shinjuku for its wide array of fashion outlets, bars, restaurants and the Shinjyku Gyoen National Garden.
- Stop by Akihabara for electronics, gaming, manga and anime.
- The New National Stadium is located in Yoyogi with a great collection of bars, restaurants, shops, and the Meiji Jingu Gaien sporting park.
Souvenir stands with a wide variety of products featuring the Tokyo 2020 mascots, Miraitowa ミライトワ and Someity ソメイティ, located in and around the event venues in Tokyo and in other major cities.
Did you know? The original 2020 Tokyo logo was dropped because a designer from Belgium claimed it plagiarized his work? The new checkerboard Tokyo 2020 logos, designed by Asao Tokolo were chosen instead.
Day trips in and around Tokyo
If you are interested in Japanese history, the Nikko Heritage Area north of Tokyo is another day trip you can’t miss, full of famous shrines, mausoleums and museums in the middle of beautiful mountain, lakes and waterfalls.
If you love theme parks, Tokyo has some of the best. Don’t miss Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Dome, and the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. It is recommended to book your tickets for these destinations early though!
Hakone is a must-see for onsen lovers, and who doesn’t love a hot spring! It’s a short train ride away from Tokyo, but feels like it is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It’s a beautiful area, surrounded by nature, with many excellent onsen and ryokan.