20-step guide to a successful entry into Japan for the Olympics

Marketing expert explains how he made it through the various stages at the airport after his flight landed in Tokyo

(ATR) Travelers descending on Tokyo could use some pointers first. Marketing expert Michael Payne to the rescue!

With the Games just days away, Olympic visitors need to prepare for what awaits them at the airport. Former IOC marketing director Michael Payne shares his experiences in this 20-step guide, exclusively for Around the Rings.

Former IOC marketing director Michel Payne with his book "Toon In".
Former IOC marketing director Michel Payne with his book "Toon In".

1. You know it risks being a long process getting through arrivals at Japan Airport for the Olympics, so it is critically important to get yourself in full zen mode - a mindset that might actually be required for the duration of the Games.

Pilot tells everyone going to Olympics to wait - no mad dash to get off plane first. No - you have a special waiting party and a special exit. So wait on plane for 30 minutes until all non Olympic travellers have disembarked.

2. Then wait at the end of the gangway until all Olympic travellers have disembarked.

3. March down long corridor, past single row of seats - every now and then being told by friendly volunteers to sit down. Like musical chairs as always someone scrambling for a chair.

4. Every now and then friendly Japanese staffer comes by to check Olympic accreditation and the app and bar code. Heaven forbid phone runs out of battery - immediate expulsion from Japan if no bar code.

5. Asked for the country list paper. Panic. What paper – don’t recall that one. Another friendly volunteer runs off to get for me.

6. More marching. New set of seats, more scrambling to grab a chair (you have no idea how long you might be waiting) and 10 mins later off again. Final set of seats but this time row of interrogators - no lights to shine into your eyes, but maybe they haven’t been installed yet.

Passport, App, the tests and the missing piece of paper.

Screen so thick separating the Japanese from the plague-carrying foreigners that you can’t hear a thing. You nervously shuffle through your papers praying you have everything in order.

7. Two sets of stamps on the key paper - the one that I never had and one step closer to being let in country, or so you thought. This is not as hard as I thought it was going to be.

8. More checks – where’s the app.

9. More marching, new desk; now app must pass computer scan. You start to sweat - not good as they think you have a fever.

10. New desk - second computer scan and given a test tube for the saliva test - swearing that you have not eaten or drunk anything for past 30 mins.

11. Off to medical cubicle. They don’t just want a little bit of saliva but a whole bloody test tube full. Nurses come to check if you have managed to fill the tube past the magical black line. Sent back twice to keep spitting. Mouth now super dry.

12. Next desk to hand over test tube.

13. Next desk to get seat number – I am allocated seat no. 7 (always make sure you get off plane ahead of everyone else). Turn corner and into the converted business lounge anxiously looking for seat no. 7. No food or drink or newspapers though.

No new ‘guests’ have come in for past 20 mins. Is there a massive hold up at the spitting cubicles?

14. After 2 hours in lounge as it slowly filled up - poor souls with seat number 140. Smiling Japanese assistant comes to confiscate passport and accreditation - now truly naked except for the app. Pray phone does not die - distinct possibility as everyone playing with their phones and no charging stations.

15. There was brief glimmer of hope. Two Japanese officials walked in with stack of passports and colorful accreditation cards that had clearly been validated. Then they walked out again. Only been 3 hours in lounge but have now been given water.

And now they are back - have neck candy and passport back but still can’t go anywhere

16. Then after 3 and half hours game of Japanese bingo told to study number on back of passport - another bar code they added ... mine 2-007. Hello, Mr. Bond! Anxiously wait for your number to be called out - felt like shouting bingo.

Rush out freedom - not so fast, Mr. Bond. It s a trap - queuing back in corridor for 15 mins, until game of bingo finished, then off to explore new parts of the airport that the Japanese want to show off to their visitors.

Some clearly getting tired so after a while walking around we are all asked to sit down again.

17. On the move again - looks like passport control. Checking passport – no, the 007 sticker on back of passport.

Off we go again to real passport - but first another form to be filled that we did not have.

18. Real passport control. First the app - but which one? There are so many and each control wants a different one. Then pictures and finger printing and can the immigration officer see the covid result tests. He asks to keep them but not sure giving away my health passport is a sensible idea - so plead deaf, until he gives up.

19. Luggage of course waiting after 6 hours, but who is counting? Just two more app checks and thru customs.

Hope the food sniffer dogs have not been sniffing too strongly - or risk having my quarantine prison rations for room lock down that I am smuggling in confiscated.

20. Now hunt for transportation into Tokyo. Volunteer manager gives me nice elderly man and told to follow.

Start to get concerned when after two escalators up he is taking me back to international departures. But I only just arrived - I don’t want to leave just yet.

Last minute turn to transport desk - oap has handed off his charge to younger volunteers who after another computer check takes me back down the escalators, thankfully away from international departures to another transport desk and another computer check.

And then - a dedicated car and on my way into 90 min drive to Tokyo.

Super tight, super efficient in a Japanese way, and super friendly and courteous. But make sure you are in full total zen mode.

Enjoy Japan, enjoy the Games - going to be very different but wonderful and privileged to be here.

Homepage photo: Twitter/Sebastian Simonet

A version of this step-by-step guide first appeared on Facebook. Used with permission.

Michael Payne, the IOC’s former marketing and broadcast rights director, is also the author of recently published Toon In! The unauthorised and entirely unsanctioned Olympic history- that is causing quite a stir.