Cover: Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies by Celeste Kiyoko Hall

Title Page

Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies®

To view this book's Cheat Sheet, simply go to and search for “Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies Cheat Sheet” in the Search box.


Are you excited to head to Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics? Or maybe you’re more than a little intimidated by planning a trip to a foreign country for one of the biggest sporting events in the world? Maybe a little bit of both? Regardless, you’ve found the right book!

Planning a trip to Japan can be stressful but manageable and even exciting if you’ve got a game plan. By the end of this book, you should have a solid idea of how to make sure you have everything in order to have a smooth trip.

About This Book

Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies is a Japan travel guidebook and Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics event guide combined into one. The reality is that some of the normal Japan travel tips and recommendations such as “top ten hotels in Tokyo to stay in” get thrown out the window due to the Olympics. In this book, I tell you everything you need to know specifically for planning a trip to Japan for the Olympics.

The best part is that this book doesn’t have to be read in order. If you’ve already started planning your trip or there are only certain pieces of information you’re interested in, feel free to use the Table of Contents and Index to skip around.

Also, all prices listed within the book are current as of this writing and are listed in either the U.S. dollar ($) or the Japanese yen (¥). Any prices listed in yen have the U.S. dollar equivalent in parentheses. I calculated the dollar amount based off the exchange rate at the time of this writing, which was $1 = ¥109.

Throughout this book, I also mention soccer as one of the Olympic sports. Outside of the United States, this sport is known as football.

Finally, within this book, you may note that some web addresses break across two lines of text. If you’re reading this book in print and you want to visit one of these web pages, simply key in the web address exactly as it’s noted in the text, pretending as though the line break doesn’t exist. If you’re reading this as an e-book, you’ve got it easy — just click the web address to be taken directly to the web page.

Foolish Assumptions

We all know what assumptions do, but in order to write this book, I had to make a few anyway:

  • You’re planning to go to Japan for the Summer Olympics. This book contains useful information if you’re going to Japan during another part of the year or you’re watching the Olympics at home on your couch. But not all the information will be applicable.
  • You may or may not have traveled to Japan before. If you’re new to Japan, this book has everything you need to feel confident about your trip. If you’ve been to Japan before, you may want to skip ahead to Part 2 for Olympics-specific information — but you’ll still find useful tips throughout the book!
  • You can purchase tickets and book accommodations. Tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic events have been very hard to come by. Accommodations have also been scarce and priced significantly higher than the norm. I guide you through how to buy tickets and book accommodations, but in doing so, I assume that tickets are available for purchase and rooms are available to book — which they may not be.

Icons Used in This Book

To make sure you don’t miss important details, we use the following icons throughout this book. Here’s what the different icons mean:

Tip Planning a trip involves a lot of moving parts. Anything marked with the Tip icon highlights specific tips that can make your life easier or call out things that would be easy to miss.

Remember The Remember icon is primarily used to call out specific pieces of information that will be beneficial to remember (or at least jot down somewhere).

Warning Mistakes can not only add additional stress to your trip, but also blow your budget. The Warning icon calls out some of those easy-to-make mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

Beyond the Book

In addition to what you’re reading right now, this book also comes with a free, access-anywhere Cheat Sheet that provides some of the key pieces of information you’ll need to know before your trip, as well as helpful tips. It also includes a high-level overview of the Olympics and Japan as a whole. To view the Cheat Sheet, simply go to and type Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies Cheat Sheet in the Search box.

Olympics-related information is accurate as of this writing. However, unforeseen events may cause the International Olympic Committee to make changes to the Olympic events after the publication of this book. For the most up-to-date information about the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, visit the official website for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 at

If you’re just dying to know more about Japanese culture, history, and tourism, I recommend checking out these resources:

  • Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO):
  • Japan Travel and Living Guide:
  • A Dreamer Traveling to Japan:

Where to Go from Here

Part 1 of this book covers the key things you need to make sure you have in order before getting on a plane to Japan. To make your life easier, I recommend starting here.

If you’re stressed about the actual planning part of your trip, check out Part 3, which covers getting tickets, reserving accommodations, and booking plane tickets.

Part 4 will help you get oriented after you land in Japan. However, I recommend at least glancing through this section before you go. Knowing what to expect can help reduce some of the culture shock you may experience when you first get to Japan.

Part 2 is specifically about the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, and it’ll make a great read on a long flight.

Part 1

Getting Ready to Travel to Tokyo


Get familiar with Japan and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Put together necessary travel documents.

Make sure your phone will work in Japan.

Figure out what to pack.

Chapter 1

Feeling the Olympic Spirit


Bullet Handling the upfront details

Bullet Knowing what to expect from the Olympics

Bullet Planning flights, hotel, and more

Bullet Making your way around Japan

Bullet Checking out more of what Japan has to offer

You’re going to the Olympics! Well, at least, you’re planning to. It’s exciting and scary, thrilling yet intimidating. The idea of taking a trip, exploring someplace new (or rediscovering a place you’ve already been to), and going on an adventure is amazing! Planning it is often less so. Planning an international trip for one of the biggest sporting events in the world may even seem like a total nightmare, but don’t worry. I get you through it. This chapter offers you a mini-preview of what you can find throughout Tokyo 2020 Olympics For Dummies.

Taking Care of Business

There are some things you’ll need to get done before you go on your trip, such as making sure you have a valid passport. You won’t get real far without one. You may also need to speak with your doctor to discuss any recommended vaccinations or what you’ll do with any prescription medication you may have (because bringing certain medications to Japan can be a bit complicated). Turn to Chapter 2 for more on all these details.

When you’ve got all your paperwork in order, the next question that tends to pop into people’s minds is, “What am I going to do about my cellphone?” or more accurately, “How am I going to connect to the Internet?” The good news is: A variety of places in Japan, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, offer free Wi-Fi. However, for most people, jumping from hotspot to hotspot isn’t exactly the most ideal.

In this case, you have a couple of different options: an international phone plan, SIM card, or Wi-Fi pack. Each has its own advantages depending on what kind of traveler you are. International phone plans will be good for those who just don’t want to have to deal with the hassle, but will also likely be the most expensive option. If you want something more budget friendly, you’ll want to go with a SIM card or portable Wi-Fi pack. If you have multiple devices that you need to have connected to the Internet at any given point in time (such as every person in your family wanting a functioning phone during the trip), go with the Wi-Fi pack. Otherwise, a SIM card will be your best bet. For more information about international phone plans, SIM cards, and Wi-Fi packs, check out Chapter 3.

Next comes the fun part: figuring out what to actually take with you to Japan (see Chapter 4). Depending on what part of the United States you’re from, the weather in Japan could be drastically different from what you’re used to, or it could be pretty similar.

Warning Then, of course, there is always the issue of overpacking. I hate to break it to you but, just because you’re going on a 15-day vacation does not mean you need to pack 14 different shirts. Most hotels have laundry facilities for you to be able to wash your clothes. Do yourself a favor and save the space in your luggage for souvenirs and all the other things you’ll pick up along the way. If not, you’ll find yourself paying not only for a new suitcase to fit all your souvenirs but also additional baggage fees at the airport.

Most important though, just make sure you bring the things you can’t replace, like your travel documents, identification, medication, glasses, and other similar items. If you forget your toothbrush, I guarantee you’ll be able to find a cheap one at a local convenience store after you land in Japan. The place you’re staying may even provide one free of charge.

Knowing What to Expect from the Games

The 2020 Summer Olympics are shaping up to be quite the spectacular event, but there are a lot of moving pieces to it. A total of 33 different sports will be appearing at this Summer Olympics. Over the course of two weeks, there will be more than 700 different events. If that’s not a jam-packed schedule, then I don’t know what is.

One of the best parts of the Olympics is that sports that normally don’t get talked about are suddenly in the limelight. Other than during the previous Summer Olympics, when was the last time you watched an archery competition or table tennis match? Just in case there are a few sports you aren’t super familiar with, you can find an introduction to each of the sports in Chapter 6.

An often overlooked part of the Games are the event venues themselves (see Chapter 5). Unfortunately, despite it being the Tokyo Olympics, not all the venues are located in Tokyo. Most of them are at least in the general vicinity, but a few don’t exactly make for easy day trips (yes, I’m looking at you, Sapporo Dome — almost nine hours from Tokyo by train!). You’ll want to make sure to familiarize yourself with the different venue locations before you start buying tickets to make sure you don’t have two events back to back without enough time to travel between them.

Also, did you know that more than just sporting events go on during the Olympics? Part of the mission of the International Olympic Committee is to “encourage the regular practice of sport by all people in society, regardless of sex, age, social background, or economic status.” To help encourage that, Partner Houses will be set up by representatives of various countries and sports federations, allowing visitors to experience different cultures and sports while meeting new people.

Aside from the Partner Houses, a special festival called the TOKYO 2020 NIPPON FESTIVAL will be held to help build enthusiasm in the Olympics. Various events throughout this festival will help not only promote the Olympic mission of bringing people together but also allow participants to interact with and experience Japanese culture, similar to the way that athletes from all over the world will be interacting with each other during the Games. You can find more information about some of the other Olympics-related events in Chapter 8.

Going into Planning Mode

Honestly, I think planning a trip is almost as fun as actually going on a trip, but I’m just weird like that.

Some people prefer to just go with the wind and sort of figure things out as they go. I highly recommend not doing that, at least for this trip. For the past several Olympics, tickets to events were sometimes available for sale right up to the start of the event.

Warning Given the unprecedented ticket demand that has been seen thus far, the chances of tickets being available for purchase right before the events will be slim. You’d hate to make it all the way to Japan and then not be able to get any tickets to any of the events. Get more info on buying tickets in Chapter 9.

The same goes for booking flights and hotels (see Chapter 10). Booking flights last minute is almost always more costly, regardless of where you’re going, but sometimes holding off on reserving accommodations can pay off if the hotel has a lot of vacancies. However, this is very, very unlikely to happen during the Olympics. If you haven’t already done so, I definitely recommend purchasing tickets for the events, flights, and accommodations sooner rather than later.

The sort of optional last step is simply to create an actual travel itinerary (see Chapter 11). Personally, I like making at least a rough itinerary, because if I don’t, my conversations with my travel companions usually turn into something like, “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do? I don’t know.” All we end up doing is wasting precious time that we could be using to explore the city or relax in an onsen (Japanese hot spring).

However, not everybody likes having a set-in-stone itinerary, and that’s okay. Some people find it to be very stressful if they feel like they have to be at a certain place by a certain time, which can take away from the overall enjoyment of the trip. If this sounds like you, no big deal. Just make sure to at least be cognizant of what times you’ll need to be at the different venues for the tickets you purchased and approximately how long it will take you to get there.

Getting Around Japan

The first time I went to Japan, I wasn’t super nervous about the flight or making sure I had everything in order. No, I was worried about how I would actually survive in the country. Would I be able to communicate with others? How did the train system work? Was I accidentally going to offend somebody or insult their culture? Thankfully, it ended up being much easier than I expected.

I recommend at least becoming somewhat familiar with life in Japan before departing on your trip. It will make getting over the culture shock significantly easier. (Chapter 16 can help with this.)

Most important, you’ll want to take a look at the currency system. You don’t need to have all the different coins and bills memorized, but know that Japan is a very cash-driven society. Unlike the United States where you can use a debit or credit card seemingly everywhere, you’ll find that most smaller, mom-and-pop-type shops in Japan won’t accept cards. Being prepared for this in advance will help you decide whether you want to order yen at your local bank before you depart and how you’ll get cash while in Japan. You can find more info about currency and payment methods in Chapter 13.

I also recommend reading up on the train system (see Chapter 15). It will most likely be your primary mode of transportation while you’re in Japan. It’s not terribly difficult, but it is extensive, which can be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors. Knowing what to do before you actually get to the train station for the first time will definitely make your life a bit less stressful.

If you don’t look up anything else about the train system before your trip, at least look into the Japan Rail Pass, often shortened to just JR Pass. These train passes can potentially save you a significant amount of money on train fares, particularly if you plan on traveling outside Tokyo. They’re only available to international visitors and until recently could only be bought outside of Japan through authorized retailers. Now, Japan Rail Passes are available for purchase in select train stations, but they’re significantly more expensive than if you were to buy them before arriving in Japan.

Tip If you plan to order a Japan Rail Pass before your trip, know that it typically takes about two business days for it to arrive, so make sure you order it at least a week or so before you depart (but preferably much sooner than that).

The other question I often get from people planning to travel to Japan for the first time is, “Will I need to know any Japanese?” My answer is typically no, but with an asterisk attached.

In general, the bigger the city you’re in, the more likely you are to find people who speak decent English. Also, younger people and businessmen will likely speak better English than people who don’t work outside the home. Granted, those are very blanket statements and will definitely not hold true 100 percent of the time.

Some people move to Japan and live there for several years and never learn a single word of Japanese. Obviously that’s a pretty extreme case, but it is possible. However, I also went to some places in downtown Tokyo where none of the staff spoke English and I had to use Japanese if I wanted to be able to communicate with them.

In my opinion, if you never learn a single word of Japanese, you’ll probably be just fine. However, learning at least a few basic words (see Chapter 14) can make your trip significantly less stressful.

Making the Most of Your Time in Japan

Last but not least, I recommend taking advantage of your time in Japan to not only attend the Olympic Games, but also to explore Japan. Chances are, you’ll inadvertently explore Tokyo (see Chapter 11) as you make your way to all the different venues for the events, but there is so much more to Japan than just Tokyo.

Depending on how much time you have and what your budget is, you may only be able to take one day trip from Tokyo (see Chapter 17), but do it if you can. Many amazing places are just outside of Tokyo, and they may allow you to experience a whole other side of Japan, despite the fact that you only went an hour or so out of the city.

The best part is that there are day trips for every type of traveler. If you’re more of an outdoors person, you can head to the Fuji Five Lakes or maybe even climb Mount Fuji. If you’d rather just sit back and relax, you can take a getaway to Hakone and relax in their various hot springs. History buffs and lovers of Japanese culture will want to look toward Nikko or Kamakura or both. Those looking for more off-the-beaten-path destinations can venture up north to Sendai, or out west to Nagoya, both of which have their own unique features.

However, if you have the flexibility, I highly recommend taking more than just a day trip (see Chapter 18). I lived in Tokyo, so it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’d be hard pressed to say that it was my favorite city in all Japan.

If you don’t go anywhere else, go to Hiroshima. Honestly, it’s not typically at the top of most people’s Japan bucket list, but its historical significance definitely makes it worth visiting and is typically why I recommend it so highly. Learning about World War II and the atomic bomb in school is one thing. Actually visiting Hiroshima and seeing all the memorials is a whole other level.

The other city that comes in at the top of my recommendations list is Kyoto. Unlike Tokyo, which boasts Japan’s modernization and technological advancements, Kyoto seems to be a city frozen in history. It’s full of sites rich in culture and history, making it a fantastic place to really take a deep dive into traditional Japanese culture.

Of course, Hiroshima and Kyoto aren’t the only two worthwhile cities. Japan is full of amazing destinations all across the country (many of which are conveniently located between Tokyo and Hiroshima). I cover a handful of them, but I also recommend doing some of your own research to see what catches your eye.