Five Things Japan is Doing in Preparation for The 2020 Tokyo Olympic & Paralympic Games

Shotaro Honda Moore
5 min readJun 21, 2018

The opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games is scheduled to begin in a little over two years, on July 24th. The Paralympics will kick off August 25th. One of the largest sporting events in the world will be taking place in the most populated city in the world. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is sure to be a spectacle, as Japan’s effort to make the games both accessible to foreigners and something uniquely their own is underway. It has been 20 years since the last Olympic Games was held in Nagano, Japan. Similarly to previous games, there will be no holding back any expenses to make it a smoothly run operation. Despite being two years out, you can see some of the ways in which the preparation for the games is already underway.

1). Increased Education in English.

Japan already has a relatively high amount of English speakers considering its history. However it is undeniable that there has been an influx of individuals studying the language. The Japanese educational system has started to ramp up their English studies for students. Private schools like NOVA, have started offering specialty courses for those specifically looking to volunteer. Some Japanese citizens have no intention of volunteering but simply wish to be able to help and interact with foreigners if the occasion arises.

It is not only the citizens of Japan who are working on their English skills but many companies as well. Some more services are being introduced, such as a recent twenty four hour English hotline for the benefits of foreigners in need of some assistance.

A textbook used in TEFL course to teach English as a second language. ©Shotaro Honda Moore.

2).Renovating Cultural Heritage Sites.

While sightseeing in Japan, you’ll notice there are currently quite a few cultural heritage sites and major tourist attractions under renovation at the moment. Himeji Castle, The Hiroshima Peace Museum and Tosho-Gu in Nikko are some such sites. It isn’t uncommon for these sites to undergo maintenance every few decades as Japan is known for having natural disasters that contribute to the erosion of these places. Heavy rain, tsunamis and earthquakes just to name a few examples. The fact that seemingly so many are under renovation now and will be done sometime in late 2019 or early 2020 before the Olympic games is no surprise. It is obvious the motives behind them at this particular time.

Toshu-Gu in Nikko being renovated. ©Shotaro Honda Moore.

3). Transportation and Roads.

Japan already has one of the most elaborate and efficient public transportation systems in the world. Tokyo specifically needs to be incredibly effective at transporting commuters and has some of the most high traffic train stations in the world. The single highest is Shinjuku Station that sees over 1 million commuters daily. There will be an altered train schedule during the Olympics to compensate for the influx, however details aren’t set.

There is also going to be additional construction done to roads to some tourist destinations. Engineers are working on making alterations to small roads that don’t have the necessary access for increased traffic.

Train stations can expect to have increased passengers and different schedules with the upcoming Olympics. ©Shotaro Honda Moore.

4). Changing the Rules of Smoking in Restaurants.

Currently there are very few regulations in terms of smoking within restaurants. Many restaurants allow smoking in their establishments, including most chains. There are often smoking and non smoking sections but many small family run shops don’t have a separated areas. On occasion and more frequently in big chains there is a designated smoking room which is a glass box with some ventilation systems that allows smokers to still have a sit down meal, while separating them from non smokers.

For the upcoming Olympics there has been many talks about changing the rules to accommodate those from abroad. This has been met with criticism, as it seems ridiculous to some that the Japanese should have to cater towards foreigners. There are already many restricted areas in big cities, especially main shopping streets that prohibit smoking. Usually this means that individuals who do wish to smoke, have to go out of their way or are confined to small smoking areas. Obviously this seems quite reasonable especially in areas with a high traffic of kids. One concern however is that having to regulate so many smokers to one area is incredibly inconvenient.

Designated smoking areas may be increased due to changes made for smoking in restaurants. ©Shotaro Honda Moore.

5). Creating A New National Arena.

Following Tokyo being announced as the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics, it was announced that the National Olympic Stadium from 1964 Olympics would be knocked down. A new state of the art facility would replace it and the construction began in 2016. The budget for the new area is 155 billion yen and architect Kengo Kuma has been placed in charge. It is expected to seat somewhere between 68000 to 80000 spectators.

This may be a more controversial change then the rest, even more so than the smoking. There has been some complaints by businesses as to the effect this construction has on them. Despite this, the creation of a New National Stadium is still one of importance in the eyes of many members of the Olympic Committee. It will serve as a symbol to the rest of the world when hosting the opening and closing ceremonies. The goal is to move away from concrete and incorporate much more wood and a more unique Japanese aesthetic. It is expected to be done completion in November of 2019.

Construction is underway for the new National Olympic Stadium. ©Shotaro Honda Moore.



Shotaro Honda Moore

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com