Olympic Torch Relay for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021: Top things you need to know

Your in-depth guide for the torch relay of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 - when, where, who, and how to watch live.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

A year after the arrival of the Olympic Flame, the Olympic Torch Relay of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 will get under way on Thursday (25 March).

The epic journey through Japan will start at the J-Village in Fukushima, and finish at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Tokyo on 23 July when the cauldron will be lit.

Find day-to-day details and how you can watch the torch relay LIVE on Olympic Channel here.

Here's how it will all unfold:

The schedule of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in 2021

The torch relay is 121 days long.

The torch will spend three days in the prefectures hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 - Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi.

It will also spend three days in four other prefectures hosting multiple competitions during the 23 July-8 August Tokyo Games in 2021 - Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Shizuoka.

Tokyo will host the torch the longest for 15 days. The remaining 39 prefectures will have it for two days each.

The schedule was unchanged from a year ago, when the Games were postponed to the summer of 2021.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay route in 2021

The torch relay will pass through all 47 prefectures in the Land of the Rising Sun, starting from the J-Village national football training facility in Naraha, Fukushima, at 9:00 JST - fitting of the relay concept "Hope Lights Our Way". It will kick off with the Japanese football team who won FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 carrying the torch.

Following Thursday's Grand Start ceremony, the flame will be carried to the second prefecture, Tochigi, on 28 March and reach Gunma two days later.

It lands in Okinawa - Japan's southernmost prefecture - on 1 May and on 17 May will enter Hiroshima, the symbolic city of peace.

The relay touches the country's northern tip Hokkaido on 13 June before coming back down the main island through Iwate and Miyagi and arriving in Tokyo on 9 July.

The finale on 23 July at the Olympic Stadium will be marked by the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron.

A full breakdown of the route and schedule can be found on Tokyo2020.Org here.

Olympic gold medallists Yoshida Saori and Nomura Tadahiro hold the torch at last year's Flame arrival ceremony.
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

The Tokyo 2020 torch

The flame touched down in Japan on 20 March 2020 at Matsushima Airbase in Miyagi after being lit in Greece at Ancient Olympia and handed over at Panathenaic Stadium.

Since the postponement of the Games by a year to 2021, the flame had been safeguarded at the Olympic Museum in Tokyo, located across the street from the Olympic Stadium.

The design of the torch, coloured pink gold, was inspired by the cherry blossom, a flower synonymous with the Japanese spring.

The torch is also environmentally friendly. Approximately 30 per cent is made from recycled aluminum that was used for temporary housing after the 2011 quake and tsunami.

Hydrogen, which emits no carbon dioxide when burned, will be used to fuel the torch in certain legs of the relay.

The Tokyo Torch Relay runners

The honour of first torchbearer goes to the Nadeshiko Japan women's football team, who won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup to help uplift a nation still reeling from the aftermath of the disaster that year.

They will take the torch from the Grand Start to the second torchbearer, 16-year-old Fukushima native Owada Asato, as the relay kicks off.

The list of torchbearers is being issued by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee two weeks before the day they are due to run. A celebration event will be held after the torchbearer arrives at the last destination on any given day.

Torchbearers will be outfitted with uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles collected by Olympic partner Coca-Cola as part of sustainability efforts.

Spectators of the torch relay are being asked to follow Covid-19 countermeasures put in place by Tokyo 2020.