Things To Consider Before Volunteering For Tokyo 2020


In under two years time, Tokyo will host the largest sporting event in the world, The Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. With such a huge amount of work to be done within the city to ensure a successful Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Organizing Committee is looking for volunteers to help in a variety of areas. Over 80 000 volunteers is the set goal, with the recruiting period beginning September 26th 2018 at 1:00pm JST. Here are some things that you should consider before volunteering for Tokyo 2020. This includes the information posted on the official site, as well as some tips for budgeting. A link to the volunteer site is below.


There are some basic requirements that a volunteer must meet. Here is a list of the necessary criteria that volunteers must fill according to the official volunteer page.

  1. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, as of April 1st 2020.
  2. A volunteer must have either a valid visa permitting residence in Japan or be a Japanese national.
  3. Volunteers must be able to work at least 10 days minimum, with some exceptions.
  4. During volunteer days, one must be able to work for at least 8 hours.


As you would expect there are many important dates and deadlines for organinzing such an event. Here are some dates to keep in mind if you are looking to volunteer.

September 26 2018: Online applications for volunteers begins at 1pm JST. This will be the first chance to submit your online application.

December 2018: Online applications for volunteering will close sometime in mid December before the new year. If still more volunteers are needed, there may be a second application period.

January 2019 - July 2019: Interviews will conducted during this time period with notifications of orientation sessions being sent out.

February 2019: Orientation sessions will begin to take place, giving the essential information needed for volunteering. An interview will also be conducted to give applicants a sense of the atmosphere that can be expected for the Olympic Games. Volunteers must attend at least one session, each lasting approximately two hours. There are three separate orientation time frames for those in Tokyo, outside of Tokyo, and overseas. None of these dates are finalized, but are the ones currently in place.

  • In Tokyo (February - May 2019): There will be orientation sessions offered 5 days per week in the Tokyo region during this time period.
  • Outside of Tokyo (April - July 2019): Training sessions will be offered 2 days per region. These regions are listed as Hokkaido, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Toyama, Shizuoka, Aichi, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.
  • Overseas (March-July 2019): For overseas applicants, orientation will be done via video conference call.

September 2019: Notifications will be sent out for specific training dates at this time.

October 2019: Generic training will begin to take place. A similar set up to the orientation is currently planned. Applicants will be required to attend one general training session, lasting 3–4 hours. Training location and preferred dates can be selected by the applicant.

  • In Tokyo (October 2019 - February 2020): Training will be offered five days per week at a facility in Tokyo.
  • Outside of Tokyo (October 2019 - January 2020): Generic Training will be offered two times per region. The regions listed are identical to that of the orientations.
  • Overseas (From June 2020): Overseas volunteers will be trained in Tokyo, but at a much later date. These training sessions will begin within months leading up to Tokyo 2020.

March 2020: Volunteers will be notified of locations and specific roles to be performed during the games.

April 2020: Additional training for role-specific jobs and leadership training will begin.

May 2020: Uniforms will begin to be distributed.

June 2020: Venue specific training will be given to those who need it.

July 24th 2020: Tokyo 2020’s Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

August 9th 2020: Tokyo 2020’s Olympic Closing Ceremonies.

August 25th 2020: Tokyo 2020’s Paralympic Opening Ceremonies.

September 6th 2020: Tokyo 2020’s Paralympic Closing Ceremonies.


Despite being called the Tokyo Games, there are actually other prefectures that will be hosting some events. You can choose where you would prefer to be stationed during your volunteering time. The application only allows for two different prefectures so think carefully. Here are a list of the different prefectures to choose from.

  1. Tokyo Prefecture: Tokyo will host the majority of the events, with the bulk of them being either in the Tokyo Bay Area or in the Inner city. Between the “Heritage Zone” and the “Tokyo Bay Zone”, there are 23 different venues. Several of these locations are outside of Tokyo city, more west in the places such as Chofu and Setagaya.
  2. Chiba Prefecture: Chiba is the neighboring prefecture, to the east of Tokyo-to. It has 4 separate venues for events (three being attached to make up the Makuhari Messe complex,). Chiba is a good location if you wish to explore outside of Tokyo, while still being close enough for a simple train ride. It is also where Narita airport is, making for an easy trip to and from flights.
  3. Saitama Prefecture: Tied for the second most venues with 4 is Saitama. This prefecture borders to the north of Tokyo Prefecture. Large scale sports such as basketball will be played out of Saitama.
  4. Shizuoka Prefecture: Shizuoka Prefecture is the farthest south the Tokyo 2020 games will reach. They have 2 different venues that will host both of the cycling events (racing & mountain climbing).
  5. Kanagawa Prefecture: Kanagawa Prefecture is the neighbouring prefecture to the south of Tokyo. The largest city in Kanagawa is the famous Yokohama, where there is plenty to do. There are 3 venues set to play host to events in Kanagawa.
  6. Ibaraki Prefecture/Miyagi Prefecture/Fukushima Prefecture: These three prefectures are all north of Tokyo and out of the metropolitan area. It could be a good selection for those looking for a quieter place to work. They will all be hosting only 1 sport, that being soccer which requires many venues.
  7. Hokkaido Prefecture: Hokkaido is the major northern island in Japan. It is the largest prefecture with many things to do outdoors. For the Olympic games, it will only host 1 event (soccer) in the capital of Sapporo.
Map Of Japan’s Prefectures.

Volunteer Role

There are many different roles a volunteer can choose from depending on their skill set and interests. Here is a list with some details of the various roles you can fill in on your application, and roughly how many volunteers they are looking for. There are 9 different roles with a tenth option being given to fill in any.

  1. Any: For volunteers willing to fill in any role required.
  2. Guidance (16,000–25,000 Volunteers): The first option is the role of a guide to help ensure the smooth operation of the Olympic Games. This means showing spectators, athletes, and other workers around venues and facilities. You will also act as a guide to and from airports and hotels. There are additional duties that will need to be performed by a volunteer who chooses the guidance role, including checking tickets and helping security.
  3. Events (15,000–17,000 Volunteers): Volunteers selecting the events role can be expected to do various things at the actual venues including set up, tear down, ticket sales and other various support systems. Volunteers can be expected to be given a specific event or venue which they will predominately stay at.
  4. Mobility Support (10,000–14,000 Volunteers): Volunteers will be assisting in the necessary transportation of athletes and other participants. This may also include the transportation of various supplies needed for the games as well.
  5. Personal Support (8,000–12,000 Volunteers): Personal support volunteers will be in a more interactive role with athletes, staff and politicians from all around the world. Volunteers choosing personal support will be welcoming overseas delegations, providing language support both at events and in the Athletes’ Village. Proficiency in multiple languages is a desired skill for those who choose this role.
  6. Operational Support (8,000–10,000 Volunteers): Operational support volunteers will have a very broad list of duties to perform. This ranges from providing transportation, helping injured athletes, distributing various equipment, and helping the other branches of volunteers. There is administration work to be done as well, such as registering staff members attendance and issuing IDs.
  7. Healthcare (4,000–6,000 Volunteers): Healthcare volunteers will provide initial treatment to spectators and staff who suffer injury or illness. They will provide transportation for injured athletes and will work in a supporting role for doping officials.
  8. Technology (2,000–4,000 Volunteers): Volunteers choosing a role in technology will be helping to distribute and collect various equipment to those who need it. They will also help fix any operational or technical difficulties. Some volunteers will also be entering data and displaying the results of events at competition venues.
  9. Media (2,000–4,000 Volunteers): Media volunteers will be expected to provide support to both domestic and international media sources. This includes helping set up efficient interviews. Volunteers may also be supporting the management of reporters and photographers. They will help set up press conference operations as well as help in the production of photography and video recording. Help with the Athlete’s Village newspaper will also be needed.
  10. Ceremonies (1,000–2,000 Volunteers): This roles responsibility will primarily be to help conduct ceremonies. Volunteers will help set up proper positioning of both staff and athletes during these ceremonies. Distribution of commemorative items will also be performed.

Preferred Sport

With there being 33 different sports at the Olympic Games and 25 different sports in the Paralympic Games, totaling a massive 879 events, there will be plenty of selection choices for volunteers. You can choose specific sports you wish to work during your application process, but this could possibly effect your chances of landing a position. However, if you a very passionate about a certain sport, it could be worth the risk. Here are a list of the events below.


An important part of being able to volunteer for many will be budgeting. Several things have to be considered or else expenses can quickly add up. So here are some costs you will have to consider before coming to Tokyo.

  1. Flight Cost: These are some prices of round trip tickets as of 2018. A round trip flight from North America to Tokyo is about 140,000 yen. From Europe it ranges drastically from 130,000–200,000 yen. South America is roughly 160,000 yen. African countries are actually relatively cheap, with flights from Cairo being as low as 70,000 yen. If your traveling from Asia or Australia your looking at a pretty inexpensive flight.
  2. Accommodation Costs: So there are really quite a few options here, depending on the length of stay and level of comfort your looking for. Here are some possible options for you to choose from.
  • 1). Hotels: For many spectators and volunteers who plan on a relatively short stay, the most convenient accommodation may simply be to get a hotel. As you would expect in the largest city in the world, the options range tremendously. From traditional Ryokan, Japanese style inns, to western styled rooms, to the unique capsule hotels, there are so many possibilities. While this could get relatively expensive depending on your luxury level, you can find some overnight accommodations for as little as 2000 yen. Here is a good article showing you the various styles and the range in prices.
  • 2). Rent A Leo Palace: An option for those who plan to stay longer, possibly for the majority of the games, is to get a Leo Palace. A leo palace is essentially a small one room apartment that can be rented out on a month to month contract. This may be the most cost efficient method of staying for multiple months. Leo palaces range in cost drastically from 60 000 yen/month to easily over 100 000 yen/month. Here is a great site in English to get some much needed information regarding this accommodation choice.
  • 3). Homestay: There is another option that could be considered and may be the easiest way to get acquainted with Tokyo. This would be to do a homestay of some kind. This is where families offer to house and feed those from abroad. They can be quite costly with often there being many rules, but it could be a comfortable means to stay in Japan. Here is a link to some great options in Tokyo.

3. Transportation Cost: Transportation cost will actually be quite affordable come Tokyo 2020. First they have decided to reduce taxi fares for the upcoming Olympic Games. This will do wonders for those who need to travel among many venues. There will also be more bus, subway and train services available. The train and subway system are already cheap ways to travel, with you able to get pretty much anywhere within Tokyo city for around 500 yen. It is recommended you get a suica card or a passamo card to make it more convenient. They also give you discounted prices on some trips. Volunteers will also be getting up to a 1000 yen of travel cost per day, to get to and from their venue.

Suica Cards Are A Convenient Way To Get Around.

4. Food Cost: Now it is still a little unclear on if all volunteers will be given meals during their shifts, but there seems to something of the sort planned. It says food and beverages will be provided during shifts, but this may be more a snack than a full blown meal. Volunteers will of course have to pay for breakfasts and dinners, so that needs to be calculated into your budget. With so many cheap options, it shouldn’t be an overbearing cost, however you should utilize your time in Japan trying some new food. With traditional options like ramen and tonkatsu, to many western style fast foods, to high class sushi restaurants, there will be many salivating options to choose from. The convenient stores in Japan even offer relatively healthy meal options for less than 500 yen.

Final Tip

Now if you’re still unsure on whether to apply or not, possibly because of unknown future plans, I suggest you give it a shot anyways. If worse comes to worse, and you can’t make it in two years time, you can always cancel. This recruitment time is a short window, and if you to miss you opportunity now you may not get a second chance. So jump right in and take a chance at a unique experience that will be the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!

If you wish to contact me, you can reach me at

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine.