As the bus rumbles along a Tokyo thruway, passengers steal a fleeting glance at the Olympic rings floating on a barge in the bay. Colorful shop signs that dot the Kabukicho entertainment district pass by in a blur. The Tokyo Tower glows, if only briefly.

The pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics are days away from starting and thousands of athletes, officials and media are descending on a Tokyo under a state of emergency because of surging COVID-19 cases. For many of the visitors under strict protective protocols, the only way to get a glimpse of this unique capital city is from a vehicle, whisking the sporting guests from athlete village or hotel to venue.

AP photographer Jae C. Hong spent hours riding Olympic buses, trying to get a feel for Tokyo as the Games in a bubble ramp up.

For the Japanese, life goes on with little indication a massive sporting event is about to begin. Streets of masked workers; a couple steal a private moment at a subway station, mask to mask; fishermen stand in their boats in a moat; an elderly woman seeking relief from the heat walks with a small towel on her head; a police officer walks under cooling mist sprays while on patrol.

The view from the bus forces a separation from subject, the bustle of the city is silenced by the closed windows. Yet, over time, if one really looks, a connection is formed with this sprawling metropolis that is a mix of modern and tradition.