We have digs

While I was writing away, creating content for this blog, Tomo was actually searching for a hotel for us. Japan has a style of hotel called a “business hotel.” These hotels are very functional, offer little hotel services, but do offer a (typically) clean place to stay. In my experience, the beds are hard as a rock and the sheets are like sandpaper, but if you lie very still they are OK.

When we were looking for rooms earlier, we visited some of the upper scale business hotel chains we had used in the past. We found those places were charging up to $600 per night, payment in advance, and no refund. While that is better than $2000 per night, it was above our price point.

A quick check at the moment shows the price is going up…

Luckily, a friend of ours gets access to various hotels through his company. The booking period for the Olympics was just opening up, so Tomo was able to shop around. He started looking at lower price hotels at first, and saw some that were 14 square meters with beds that were 120 cm wide. For two people. 14 square meters is 150 square feet, and 120 cm is 47 inches. For two people. That was a bit cozy for us for three weeks.

After shopping for four hours, Tomo was able to find a hotel with rooms no smaller than 20 square meters (215 square feet) and beds 160 cm (63 inches) wide. The room was available for all but two days, and those two days fell on a weekend. The price was less than $300 per night, and although advance payment was required, it is possible to cancel with a full refund. Note the usual price is $70 per person. They are charging double in this period. That’s right, they charge per person, not per room. Makes no sense and one of the things that drives me crazy about Japan.

I feel pretty fortunate that we found this. It is conveniently near the Akasaka Mitsuke subway station that has two subway lines that allows direct access (no changing trains) to Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, and Tokyo Station.

This hotel is not available for booking per their homepage – only through this special access. A big thanks to our friend for helping out.

The unaccommodating accommodations

We thought we’d be really clever and reserve our usual hotel (Hyatt Regency Shinjuku) one day at a time at exactly the day the window opens for reservations. We are arriving a few days before the opening ceremonies and were successful getting a room the first few nights. And then the first day of the official Games, NOTHING was available. Nothing at all at the usual hotel. We continued to check at EXACTLY the time the rooms should be opening daily and they were already all booked. We called the hotel and learned that the IOC had booked the entire hotel in advance for the entire period. So … there went our plan.

We called a few of the Hyatt properties directly to see if there was any availability. The Park Hyatt (of “Lost in Translation” fame) was very kind and recognized that we had stayed there before. They made us an offer to stay for the entire period for only $2000/night (excluding tax and service fee), advance payment, and no refund. To quote Kai Ryssdal, “Let’s do the numbers!” That’s a whopping $36,000. So, that’s a big NO.

The issue is definitely making the news

Fortunately, we have a backup plan, so we won’t be spending $36,000 (excluding tax and service fees) and we won’t be sleeping on the streets. However, it would be nice to find a room so we are not inconveniencing friends. Thanks in advance to the friend who has offered their home to us. There’s time, and rooms will get released, so we will keep looking.

Getting started

The schedule for Tokyo 2020 was announced on April 16, 2019, with ticket sales in Japan via lottery starting on the 9th of May through the 28th of May. On May 17th, we took a little “staycation” in Hollywood and part of the plan was to develop our strategy for tickets and spend a few hours looking at the schedule and coordinating what we wanted.

Then we looked at the schedule. The schedule on the official website is cool, but not that easy for planning. The English website has the following table, where you need to drill down to get the details.

The US supplier of tickets provided a PDF of the schedule, which, when downloaded, was 78 pages. Here’s an excerpt of the CoSport PDF… note the header is only on the first sheet. Everyone knows to “repeat header.”

Clearly a “few hours” was not going to be enough. How would we coordinate this?  We started writing down what we were interested in on a daily basis, and thought we’d go back and compare our notes to get a compiled list. In the early days of the competition period, the number of events is a lot. We also knew that any ticket request would have a low success rate, so we needed to choose multiple events and have a strategy on overlaps. It didn’t take long for us to realize that a quick review with notes was not going to work. I thought what every good engineer who occasionally has to manipulate data thought – Excel.

Around this time a British guy working for my French supplier on a project in the UAE introduced me to Notepad++. He told me it would change my life. Little did I know at the time how right he was. Converting a properly formatted table into PDF is not that hard, but this was not a well formatted table. Somehow, though, I was able to manipulate the PDF into an Excel spreadsheet with Notepad++ tools and some manual fixes. Thankfully this gave us a method of reviewing and strategizing.

I created a column for each of us to note whether or not we were interested in an event, then I was able to sort on those that one or both of us were interested in, then we jointly agreed on the tickets we would pursue, assigned a priority, and then designated whose application would request the ticket.

Then we applied that to our proprietary ticket purchase plan and started our journey. If we had “won” every ticket we requested, it would have been about $19,000. We knew we would not get every ticket. In the end, we didn’t come close. Tomo continues to monitor a site that announces ticket releases, and so we’ve been able to add events over time. Still no opening or closing ceremonies, but we will have plenty to make the trip worthwhile.


And now the reason for the blog

When Tokyo was announced as the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics on September 7, 2013, Tomo and I decided that we would go to the Olympics. We’ve held that promise to ourselves, and we are going. Airplane tickets are purchased, event tickets have been lined up, and somehow we’ll figure out where we can stay. We have a backup plan, so that’s good.

I want to document the experience, and considering my previous post about social media, I don’t really think Facebook is the way to do it. I have a specific Instagram account just for the Olympics, but I want the narrative. Like my previous blog, I can imagine that this blog will help me collect the memories and then help me recollect them later. That’s the plan. You can join us as well.