Ultimate Guide to Attending the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Tokyo's Olympic Stadium |  Image from the official 2020 Olympics website

Tokyo's Olympic Stadium | Image from the official 2020 Olympics website

In 1964, Tokyo became the first Asian city to host the Olympics. Fifty-six years later, the Olympics are coming back to Tokyo for the summer of 2020 and they are sure to bring in travelers from all over the world. In fact, it is said that an estimated 10 million people will be traveling next summer for the Tokyo Olympics. 

If you are one of those lucky people to score tickets and are planning on traveling to Tokyo next summer, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to attending the Tokyo Olympics. We’ve included everything from the official schedule, where to stay closest to the action, how to get around and what highlights of Tokyo you don’t want to miss on your trip. 

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Important Dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

July 24 to August 9: 2020 Olympic Games

  • July 22: First soccer & softball matches

  • July 24: Opening Ceremony, qualifying rounds for rowing and archery 

  • July 25: Official start of the Olympic Games

  • July 31 - Aug 9: Athletic competition finals (peak of the action!)

  • Aug 9: Closing Ceremony

Aug 25 - Sep 6: Paralympic Games


2020 Olympic Venues

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Zones Map |  Image from the official 2020 Olympics website

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Zones Map | Image from the official 2020 Olympics website

There will be two main zones set up in Tokyo where the majority of the Olympic venues are located.* The zones cross over one another creating the infinity symbol, which is to symbolize the infinite fun of the Olympic Games. 

The Heritage Zone

The original site of the ‘64 Olympics, which is located in the central business area of Tokyo, northwest of Olympic Village. The Heritage Zone houses 7 venues, including the newly rebuilt Olympic National Stadium, which will be the main stadium of the 2020 games and host the Opening/Closing ceremonies, soccer matches, and all track & field events. 

The closest train station to the new National Stadium is Sendagaya Station in the Shinjuku district, on the Chuo-Sobu Line.

Tokyo Bay Zone 

The area encapsulates the coastal area of Tokyo Bay, southwest of Olympic Village. The 13 venues in this zone have been newly built for the 2020 Olympics are are mostly located in the Ariake District, with some in Odaiba and the surrounding artificial islands.

Check out the official website of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for a map of the area including a list of venues and which event will be housed in each

*There will also be some outlying venues for events with specific requirements.


2020 Olympic Events

The 2020 Olympic Games will be comprised of 339 separate events. Participants will be competing in 33 sports (with 50 disciplines), including 5 new sports this year: Baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing, and surfing. There are also 15 new events premiering at the 2020 Games within existing sports including 3-on-3 basketball and freestyle BMX.  

The complete Olympic competition schedule is listed on the official website. 

Is it your first time traveling to Japan? Read our First-Timer’s Guide to Traveling in Japan, an in-depth guide with plenty of helpful tips and useful information.


How to get tickets for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

Tickets are available for application to Japanese residents on the Tokyo 2020 official website. If you are not a resident of Japan and still hoping to score tickets, you’ll have to go through your country’s authorized ticket resellers. Tickets go on sale to the international population this fall on a first-come-first-served basis. And in the spring of 2020, the last-minute ticket sales will begin.

Basic ticket prices start from 12,000 yen (about $110 USD) for adults and there are discounted rates for children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities. However, if you have your heart set on attending the Opening or Closing Ceremonies, you’ll have to drop a whopping 300,000 yen (about $2790 USD) per ticket.


Weather in Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Guide |

If you are planning to travel to Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics, be prepared for the heat. August is the hottest month in Japan with temperatures averaging 80°F/41°C. With high humidity levels in the downtown Tokyo area, these temperatures can easily reach sweltering. 

Plan for the heat by packing the appropriate clothing and an insulated water bottle so that you always stay hydrated! Double-check that your accommodation has air conditioning and pack a hat or umbrella to keep you out of the sun. 

Not sure how to pack for your trip? We’ve got you covered with a complete Japan Packing Guide. This FREE 5-page e-book is filled with practical tips and everything we recommend bringing along on your trip to Japan!


Tokyo Accommodation

With an expected 10 million travelers descending on the city of Tokyo (whose population is already approaching 10 million!) for the 2020 Olympics, finding a place to stay is going to be a challenge. In fact, it is estimated there is going to be a shortfall of 14,000 rooms for every day of the Olympics in Tokyo according to Mizuho Research Institute.

It should also be noted that prices for accommodation of all types are likely to sky rocket during the weeks of the Olympics in Tokyo. You can expect to pay up to quadruple the average rate in hotels, if you can even find an available room that hasn’t already been blocked out for Olympic personnel.

There are a number of different accommodation options to choose from in Tokyo and we are going to break down each one for you below.

Hotels in Tokyo

Probably your most expensive option, and likely to fill up before anything else. There will be many hotels that will show no vacancy during the Olympics to accommodate Olympic officials and personnel.

Check for available hotels in Tokyo during your stay on Booking.com to see the best rates available.

Airbnbs in Tokyo

A great option for a longer stay. Live like a local, enjoy the options for having a kitchen or in-home laundry, depending on the type of stay you book. These are also likely to come at a more affordable price tag than hotels, and residents may continue to add their spaces to the Airbnb marketplace as the demand increases closer to the games.

Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay on us! No gimmicks! Just use this link and book!

Capsule Hotels in Tokyo

Growing increasingly popular in major Asian cities to fill steep accommodation needs in minimal space, capsule hotels are not for everyone. They are sort of the bare minimum when it comes to accommodation, offering just a cubby no bigger than a twin sized bed for sleeping.

Be prepared to hear your neighbors coming and going at all hours of the night if you choose to stay in one of these interesting hotel options. The minimalism is reflected in the price as capsule hotels are not much more than your average hostel dorm bed. However, you can expect to pay a premium during the Olympics.

Booking.com will show availability of capsule hotels as well!

Hostels in Tokyo

Another typically more affordable option for the budget traveler. Hostels usually offer dorm-style rooms where you can book a single bed in a shared space with a shared bathroom. Sometimes you will find hostels with private rooms as well. There is usually a common area for socializing — a great way to meet other travelers.

We always use Hostel World to find availability and rates for hostels when traveling, especially in Asia.

Cruise Ships

In an effort to combat the room shortage on land, the city plans to use cruise ships as an alternative accommodation option. We’ve seen this done in other cities for major sporting events before. A cruise ship will dock for the duration of the event and offer up its cabins to travelers as cruise packages. A benefit of this option is getting all of the amenities a cruise offers while having easy access to Tokyo at the same time.

Insider Tip: Directions to specific accommodations can be very challenging in Tokyo, especially if you are renting an Airbnb and receiving directions from the host. Having a consistent internet connection on your smartphone is not only convenient, but it’s also necessary. Here’s how we stay connected in Japan.

Where to Stay in Tokyo 

Pictured: One of the less busy streets around Harajuku, which is located between Shinjuku and Shibyua.

If you want to stay close to the action for the 2020 Olympics, you’ll want to stay near Tokyo’s New National Stadium. Below is a breakdown of the closet neighborhoods to the Olympic action in Tokyo.

  • Shinjuku: This neighborhood encompasses Tokyo’s sky scrapper district (home of some of Tokyo’s tallest buildings and several premier hotels) as well as the neon-lit nightclubs and karaoke rooms of East Shinjuku and the red light district. At the center of it is Shinjuku Station, the busiest railway station in the world with more than 2 million passengers passing through on a daily basis.

  • Shibuya: The bustling commercial and business center of Tokyo can be found in the neighborhood of Shibuya, as well as the world-famous Shibuya Crossing, the busiest intersection in– you guessed it– the world! … And would you believe the Shibuya Station is the second busiest railway station in the world?

  • Chiyoda: In this neighborhood you’ll find something a little different than the above neon-lit concrete jungles. The moats, gates, and pathways of the Imperial Palace East Gardens and adjoining Kokyo Gaien National Garden are at the center of Chiyoda. The National Theatre and Tokyo International Forum head up the arts & cultural side of this ‘hood.

With rooms in the city center booking up fast at a hefty price tag, another option for travelers would be to stay somewhere out of town. Get your Japan Rail Pass ahead of time and save money on the commute into the city to catch the Olympic action. Here are some of your best options for staying outside of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, all within a 1 hour train ride of downtown Tokyo:

  • Yokohama is a port city just south of Tokyo on the Bay. Known for it’s massive China-town and Sankei-en botanical garden.

  • Chiba is another port city about 25 miles southeast of the city center of Tokyo. Much of the city is residential so there should be plenty more accommodation options available here.

  • Saitama is the nearest city to the north of Tokyo, where many residents make the daily commute into Tokyo. Home to the village of Kawagoe, otherwise known as “Little Edo,” and a popular day trip from Tokyo.


Getting Around Tokyo

The trains and metros in Japan are some of the cleanest and most efficient in the world, and the rail system covers almost the entire country making it a very efficient way to get around. However, transportation is one of the biggest expenses to factor into your Japan travel budget

There are two major companies that operate the subway system in Tokyo: Toei and Tokyo Metro. The Tokyo Metro has 9 different subway lines, where the Toei only has 4 lines. You can get to all the major spots on the Tokyo Metro lines. You aren’t likely to need to use the Toei system unless your accommodation is only near a Toei station.

The easiest way to get around is to purchase either the Suica or Pasmo tap on tap off public transport card.

You will start with a set amount of credit and can then top it up as you need at most train stations. These transport cards can be used for all public transport within Tokyo, and also within most other cities in Japan.

Good to know: You can get refunded for any money remaining on your card that you have not spent (as well as the required 500 yen deposit). You can find refund counters at major train stations, or you can spend this money at 7-Eleven and other convenience stores.

If you plan on doing quite a bit of exploring in a day, another cost-effective option is to purchase the Tokyo Metro 1-Day Pass. The 1-day pass only costs 600 yen ($5.34 USD) and you can purchase it at any ticket vending machine. 

Insider Tip: The Tokyo metro system can look quite confusing at first glance. Just take a look at that spaghetti-like map above! But if you download the Japan Official Travel app (available for iOS and Android), you will be saved a HUGE headache. It is literally a lifesaver for navigating all transportation in Japan.

Are you planning to travel more in Japan outside of Tokyo?

If you’re just staying in Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass will not be worth the price. However, if you are planning to travel to a few more places around Japan, it will likely save you a ton of money.

Read more about how much money the Japan Rail pass will save you and find out how to get it. We have a whole guide and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Helpful Tip: It's much easier to purchase the Japan Rail Pass before entering the country. Give yourself at least a week for the voucher to be shipped to you.


Things to Do in Tokyo

It can be overwhelming trying to plan a trip to Tokyo while fitting in all the highlights of the city and the Olympic events. We’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Tokyo for any type of trip.

But to keep it short, here are some of the highlights…

1. Shibuya Crossing: Make a point to navigate the world’s busiest intersection, the famous Shibuya Crossing during your time in Tokyo. It’ll be at an all-time crazy-busy level during the Olympics!

2. Free walking tour: Tokyo Localized offers a few types of tours in different neighborhoods that highlight unique aspects of the city. 

3. Visit a karaoke room: A Japanese staple and popular pass-time for residents of Tokyo that can be found on just about every street corner. Most karaoke rooms charge by the half-hour and serve snacks and drinks if you’d like to indulge.

4. Shinjuku Goyoen National Garden: Tokyo can feel a bit chaotic at times and the Shinjuku National Garden is the perfect oasis to escape, right in the middle of the city.

5. Visit teamLab Borderless Tokyo Art Museum: Probably the most instagrammable locations in Tokyo, if not all of Japan! Interact with colorful projections of moving art as you explore different worlds that overload your senses.

6. Eat all the food: Japanese cuisine is more than just sushi and sashimi. Here are 45 foods to try while traveling in Japan that you don’t want to miss out on.

Related Reading: If you want to escape the chaos of Tokyo during the Olympics, here’s a list of crazy fun things to in Japan that aren’t all in Tokyo.


The Downside of Traveling to Tokyo During the Olympics

While traveling to a new destination for the Olympics may be a bucket list check and dream come true for some individuals, it is important to have all the facts before you go and know what you are getting into. Some of the best reasons for traveling to Japan, may be exactly why you want to avoid Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.

If you’re traveling as a sport fan to experience the hype of the Olympic games, then you will probably enjoy traveling for the Olympics, no matter where they are held. However, if you are hoping to experience the authentic Tokyo, you may want to reconsider the timing of your visit.

An estimated 10 million people will be traveling to Tokyo next summer for the 2020 Olympics and the already crowded city is going to be at its maximum capacity. You can expect crowds everywhere you go, and typical tourist attractions will likely have lines significantly longer than usual.

We already spoke about the accommodation shortage and astronomical prices for even a few square feet of space to rest your head. If you’re hoping to save money while traveling in Japan, this is not the time to visit.

Japan is lovely in any season, but with the summer months comes heat and humidity. August, when the bulk fo the Olympic Games will be taking place, is the most humid month of the year in Tokyo. If you have a medical condition that could be exacerbated by the heat, or if you are simply not great at coping with humidity, you may want to visit during another time.

Thinking of visiting Japan outside of the 2020 Olympics window? This article will help you decide the best time to visit Japan.


Useful Tips for Traveling in Japan

So you’ve secured your tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, your bags are packed and you’ve even managed to find accommodation in the city for a reasonable price… now what?

Below are some useful tips for traveling in Japan that you may want to read before you land in the city of the rising sun.

  1. The language in Japan is, quite obviously, Japanese. But many people in big cities, like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka also speak English.

  2. The standard voltage in Japan is 100 V and the power sockets are type A and B (which is the same as in North America). Even with the correct socket, with the lower voltage you will need a power converter for electronics that don't already have a converter. We recommend this all-in-one converter-adapter that works in any country.

  3. In any new country it’s helpful to have access to the internet on your smartphone for finding your way around, translations and other necessities. We’ve broken down the pros and cons of connecting with a pocket Wifi device vs. using a Japanese SIM card.

  4. Tipping is not expected, and can even be considered rude. And even if the server is not offended, they will likely be confused if you try and leave a tip after a meal.

  5. Pointing is considered rude. Instead, use an open hand to make gestures.

  6. Taking off your shoes is common courtesy before entering many places. If the floor is raised at the doorway, it is an indicator that you should remove your shoes. Its a good idea to pack an extra pair of socks if you aren’t wearing any so you can avoid being barefoot in certain places (which can also be considered rude).

Is it your first time traveling to Japan? Read our First-Timer’s Guide to Traveling in Japan, an in-depth guide with plenty of helpful tips and useful information.


We want to hear from you!

Are you planning on traveling to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games and still have questions?

Have you ever traveled to another city for the Olympics? What was your experience like?

Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!