While this year’s Olympic and Paralympics will undoubtedly be a very different Games, and athletes’ time in Japan will be limited, there are still numerous factors to consider as British athletes prepare for competition 6,000 miles, eight time zones and a cultural world away.
Lucy Renshall will compete for Great Britain this summer, marking a return to Japan, where she also competed at the 2019 World Judo Championships, held in Tokyo.
Here, she advises first-time visitors to Japan on what to expect, to prepare for, and how to adapt to the different environment.
“When we competed in Tokyo in 2019 it was obviously pre-COVID, so the world was a very different place, however from that experience, there are still a number of things that I’d advise other British athletes to take into account when preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics.
“Firstly, the flight over to Japan is very long but I tried to keep moving and walk to the back of the plane every hour to have a little stretch or move around so I didn’t get super stiff. I also took my own food and snacks just so I could eat something that I was familiar with.
“I have been fortunate to travel to Japan on numerous occasions for training camps and competitions and every time I have always struggled with jetlag. However, from experience, I have found the best thing to do on arrival is set an alarm for the morning and stay awake until a suitable time to sleep at night. Even when you’re desperate for a nap at 3 in the afternoon! It’s good to get out of the hotel and go for a walk to keep yourself awake.
“One thing that I’m sure athletes – particularly those who compete in outdoor sports – will have given thought to is the Japanese temperatures and humidity. It can get quite hot there, so I try to keep very hydrated, always keeping a water bottle at hand. I try my best to stay indoors before I train as it can be very draining in the heat but when outdoors water is key!
“The Japanese accommodation has also been discussed, and the rooms are particularly small – especially the bathrooms. I remember having to climb over my suitcase just to get into the bathroom!
“My roommate and I really worked together to keep a neat and tidy space which helped a lot. I only took things I knew I needed and didn’t pack extras! We also tried to be creative with space, hanging training kits up on the windows and door frames.
“The food over there can be different to what you’re used to, however you can always find the basics. My advice would be to stick to what you know before competing, even if it means taking your own supply of food with you – I always travel with a travel kettle and a few packs of instant noodles! Then afterwards you can enjoy and experiment with food a bit!
“Despite the differences, everybody in Japan is so friendly, respectful and always willing to help, which does come in handy.
“Above all, I found my time in Japan to be so much fun! It’s like being in a real-life cartoon. It is very busy, but even when I last went (pre-COVID) people were very hygienic and wearing face masks out in public – so I am very confident that this year’s Olympics will be extremely safe.”