Photo/IllutrationCentral Tokyo bristles with hotels. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Those lucky enough to snag lottery tickets for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now face a new problem: Finding hotel accommodation during the 17-day sports extravaganza.

A 26-year-old woman from Chiba Prefecture thought her troubles were over when she won lottery tickets in late June. But she couldn't have been more wrong.

“We're not accepting reservations,” she was shocked to hear when she called a hotel in Tokyo to book a room after learning of her lottery success June 20.

“All our guest rooms are already booked solid by Olympic officials,” the operator told her.

The woman beat the odds to win a seat at one of the most popular events: the men’s gymnastics team final.

The event will start at 7 p.m. in Tokyo’s Ariake district. She had planned to stay at a hotel near the venue after the medals are handed out.

As the woman has disabilities and uses a wheelchair, she needs to find barrier-free accommodation.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said it tentatively reserved about 46,000 hotel rooms for officials of the International Olympic Committee, sports associations and Olympic committees of various countries for the duration of the Games.

The organizers admit they may not need all of the rooms ultimately because some associations are bound to find accommodation on their own. But until they determine how many rooms are needed, none of the bookings will be canceled.

With around 200 countries and regions dispatching officials to the Games, organizers said it was taking time to make arrangements for hotel accommodation and it is not known when the precise number of rooms needed will be finalized.

“I’m sure that many spectators will come from far away to watch the Olympics,” the Chiba woman said, her voice rising in anger. “I cannot believe that the Games organizers sell event tickets while they hold so many hotel rooms for themselves.”

The woman has called several other hotels but has yet to find a place to stay.

HOTELS SCRAMBLING, TOO

As soon as the lottery results were announced, hotels found themselves inundated with reservation requests.

On June 20, Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel received more than 100 such calls.

With the hotel’s 830 guest rooms already booked by the organizers, operators had no other choice but to decline the requests.

But it still receives dozens of phone calls daily.

One Tokyo hotel with about 1,000 rooms took the precaution of posting an announcement in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean on its website June 21 that says, “We are not accepting reservations during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Another hotel in the capital has also decided not to accept reservations from the general public for a while as it expected to provide rooms for Olympic officials.

“To be honest, I hope the Olympics organizers finalize the accommodation arrangements as soon as possible,” said an employee of the hotel.

LOOK BEYOND TOKYO

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of guest rooms in hotels and ryokan Japanese-style inns in the greater Tokyo area has increased in recent years.

Figures show that there were around 300,000 rooms available in fiscal 2017 in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.

At the same time, visitors to the capital region have soared, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is expected to draw 10 million people to the capital region.

“It should be enough if people use ‘minpaku’ private lodgings and ‘hotelship’ (cruise ships temporarily utilized as accommodation) in addition to the 300,000-or-so guest rooms in the capital region,” said Minoru Murakami, chief director of Ohta Publications Co., publisher of a hotel industry-specific magazine.

Murakami’s optimistic calculation is based on the 2012 London Olympics.

Still, visitors should expect to have a tough time booking accommodation at a high-end hotel with fewer rooms or a hotel near Olympic venues, Murakami said.

He is hopeful that organizers will encourage the public to look beyond Tokyo and consider the option of staying away from the capital region.

“The Olympics and Paralympics will come and go," Murakami said. "Building more hotels for such events will only lead to an oversupply.”

His suggestion is to mount a campaign to expand the accommodation area for foreign visitors to Maebashi in Gunma Prefecture and the resort town of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, which are both less than an hour away by Shinkansen from Tokyo.

Those foreign visitors might do well to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, he added.

(This article was written by Chihiro Ara and Ari Hirayama.)