Japan Reloaded: A pre-trip guide if you’re heading to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

2019-11-22 16:52
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Beautiful Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in early morning light after sunrise. Kyoto, Japan, Asia

Japan has just successfully hosted an exceptional Rugby World Cup tournament - and what a moment in time it has been for South Africa. But the Olympics flame is burning hot, with Tokyo set to roll onto the 2020 itinerary of many a sports-mad traveller.

An estimated 600k people are expected to flock to Japanese capital and surrounding regions. The games will be hosted across nine prefectures, but the majority of the games will take place in two main areas of Tokyo - namely the Heritage Zone, using revamped buildings from the 1964 Olympics and a "new innovative urban development" hub, the Tokyo Bay Zone Venues outside of Tokyo, which includes the Sapporo Dome on the northern island of Hokkaido and the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima.  

If you're thinking of going, there could be no better time to start the pre-trip planning.  

READ: 10 Things I didn’t know about Japan until I went there  


  • Starts -  Friday, 24 July
  • Ends - Sunday, 9 August.    

READ: This South African is helping to drive an expo so big it is comparable to the Olympics with 60 live daily events for 173 days   


At this stage, only residents of Japan are eligible to purchase tickets from the Tokyo 2020 Official Ticket Website. Overseas residents need to purchase tickets from their country's designated Authorised Ticket Resellers (ATR).

According to South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee - South Africa who wish to buy the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games tickets will need to purchase these directly via the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games website. They have not signed up as an ATR and will therefore only be able to purchase tickets when international buyers go live from 14 June 2019 midnight, Tokyo time (Keep in mind Tokyo is +7 hours ahead of SA) 

What if you can't get tickets? 

We admit, leaving ticket purchase to so late can seem daunting. The will however be no lack of fun if you attend, as planning for fans includes 30 live sites, it  does not necessarily mean a lack of Olympics fun in and around Tokyo for non-ticketholders. Expect stage events, as well as provide visitors with an opportunity to try out Olympic and Paralympic sports themselves. 


This is what you need to know about planning your 2020 Olympics Toyko, Japan trip: 

Visas: Visa required for South African passport holders. You will need - a valid passport, completed application form, passport-size photograph, flight schedule and return air ticket. As a tourist you will need to include a daily itinerary, hotel bookings and bank-confirmed proof of sufficient funds. You will need to apply in person. There is a consulate in Cape Town, with the main Embassy of Japan located in Pretoria.  

Currency: Japanese Yen

Main Airport Hub in Tokyo: Narita International Airport  

Peak Season: Cherry blossom and autumn foliage times (early April and mid-November) 

Language: Japanese 

Time Zone: +7hrs ahead of SA, (GMT+9)  

READ: Cities like Paris, Kyoto and Amsterdam are all becoming less Airbnb-friendly - here's why 

Transport: One way to simplify your travel around the country and between major centres is to invest in a Japan Rail Pass. These passes cost 39 600 YEN for 7 days, 64 120 YEN for 14 days, and 83390 YEN for 21 days (as of November 2019). All pass times are for consecutive travel - and you must have a temporary visa available to be eligible. 

 SEE: Tokyo outward: the long and short of getting around Japan 


Japan is famous for its unique, on-the-go capsules stays (even this weird budget stay option), but for this peak-season travel period you may want to consider the flexibility of an Airbnb stay or perhaps the traditional Ryokan stays. These added links are recommended by the official Tokyo 2020 fan site. 


  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Hiroshima
  • Sapporo


  • Fushimi
  • Inari Taisha Shrine
  • Tokyo Imperial Palace
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial
  • Himeji Castle
  • Todaiji Temple

READ: A South African’s guide to Tokyo


  • Check out the cherry blossoms 
  • Explore Tokyo, Mario Kart style 
  • Enjoy an authentic Japanese onsen experience 
  • Zip across the country on a bullet train (shinkansen)
  • Check out some sumo wrestling   


  • Ramen
  • Tempura
  • Kare Raisu
  • Sushi / Sashimi 
  • Okonomiyaki

READ: Where and when to see the best cherry blossoms in Japan


  • Traditional temples 
  • Harujuku style 
  • Tea Ceremonies
  • The art of Bonsai, cherry blossoms and Zen gardens
  • Mount Fuji
  • The Sapporo Snow Festival


  • Martial arts 
  • Sushi
  • Geisha girls 
  • Anime 
  • Shinto and Buddhism  

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