On June 1, the organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games announced the route for the Olympic torch relay races, which will cross the country in anticipation of the Olympic Games starting later in the summer.

Photo by Sankei Shimbun | © JAPAN Forward

The Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic torch relay race will start on March 26 from J-Village, the football stadium in Fukushima Prefecture, the heart of the area affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. In the following months the flame will cross the whole of the country, all 47 prefectures, 857 cities, towns and villages, over 121 days.

This period is unusually long, as in principle the relay is supposed to be less than 100 days, but the organizing committee received special permission from the International Olympic Committee to allow for travel throughout the country, including disaster affected areas. Each day will feature 80 to 90 people who will carry the Olympic Torch for about 200 meters each. About 10,000 people overall will participate in the traditional race.

Photo by Sankei Shimbun | © JAPAN Forward

Who Can Run?

The aim is to have people from all over the country apply to be a runner.

In addition to applying directly through the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, one can apply through the “Presenting Partners”, the sponsors of the event, for a maximum of 5 applications per person (although of course winners only get to run once). Details are set to be announced soon, and the deadline for applications will be August 31.

People wishing to be among the runners carrying the Olympic flame should have been born in 2008 or before, making it a celebration open to anyone who is older than a middle school student, with no age, sex or citizenship discrimination.

The main criterion is that those who run are expected to have experience living in the prefecture where they are applying or a connection with the region. In case it’s difficult for an individual to run on their own, the presence of co-runners is allowed.

Each participant will run approximately 200 meters. Private sponsorships are not be permitted, and people in public office such as parliamentarians and local government officials are banned from participating.

Applications in each prefecture will begin on July 1. Applications through Presenting Partner Coca Cola will begin June 17, while the other sponsors Toyota, Nippon Life and NTT will accept applications from June 24. The selections will be announced from December.

Photo by Sankei Shimbun | © JAPAN Forward

Relay Course – A Chance for Rebirth and Remembrance

The race will pass through cities and countryside, exploring the best of Japan’s scenery and cultural heritage as it proceeds. The final runner will reach new National Stadium on July 24, in time for the opening ceremony.

The Olympic flame, aside from the 15 days it will be in Tokyo, will spend a couple days in each prefecture as it passes through the region. Fukushima Prefecture, the location of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, will welcome runners for the event for three days.

The route passes the “miracle pine” in the devastated city of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, representing the single pine tree that survived being engulfed by the tsunami back in 2011. The tree became famous worldwide for its clear message to the world of rebirth of the region.

Matsumoto Castle in Nagano prefecture, which suffered major damage in a group of 2016 earthquakes, will also be part of the route.


By - Ben K.