Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay: Everything you need to know

MIYAGI, JAPAN - 20 MARCH, 2020 :  The Olympic Torch Relay Official Ambassador Tadahiro Nomura and three times gold medalist Saori Yoshida with the Olympic Torch Relay Lantern during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Flame Arrival Ceremony at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Air Base in Higashimatsushima city, Miyagi, Japan.
MIYAGI, JAPAN - 20 MARCH, 2020 : The Olympic Torch Relay Official Ambassador Tadahiro Nomura and three times gold medalist Saori Yoshida with the Olympic Torch Relay Lantern during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Flame Arrival Ceremony at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Air Base in Higashimatsushima city, Miyagi, Japan.

There's just one week to go until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay gets underway, and here's how you can follow every step of it's historic 121-day journey around Japan - from the Grand Start in Fukushima on 25 March to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo on 23 July 2021

What happened last year?

On 12 March 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Flame was lit at the Temple of Hera at the sacred site of Ancient Olympia in Greece. The flame was handed over to Japan during a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium, before it arrived at Matsushima Base in Miyagi to great fanfare on 20 March last year.

Following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Olympic Flame was kept alight at the Olympic Museum in Tokyo, and has recently embarked on an emotional tour of Iwate prefecture to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of High Priestess, passes the flame to the first torchbearer during the opening of the Olympic flame torch relay for Tokyo 2020 on 12 March 2020 in ancient Olympia.
Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of High Priestess, passes the flame to the first torchbearer during the opening of the Olympic flame torch relay for Tokyo 2020 on 12 March 2020 in ancient Olympia.
Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

What happens now?

The Torch Relay will officially get underway following a ceremony at the National Training Center J-Village in Fukushima on 25 March and over the following 121 days the flame will visit all 47 prefectures in Japan.

The Relay will conclude on 23 July when the flame will be used to light the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in front of billions of people watching around the world.

Why is the Grand Start in Fukushima?

On 11 March 2011, Japan's strongest earthquake on record triggered a tsunami which devastated the Tohoku region and the prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi in particular. It was a catastrophic natural disaster that shook the world.

Soon after the Olympic flame landed at Matsushima Base in March 2020, it toured these three prefectures as part of a 'Flame of Recovery'.

The Olympic Torch Relay will start in Fukushima, with the flame visiting the same affected areas for three days each - longer than any other prefectures - to inspire hope along the way.

The Olympic flame has been on public display at Chūson-ji Temple in Iwate prefecture ahead of the Grand Start of the Olympic Torch Relay in Fukushima on Thursday 25 March.
The Olympic flame has been on public display at Chūson-ji Temple in Iwate prefecture ahead of the Grand Start of the Olympic Torch Relay in Fukushima on Thursday 25 March.
Tokyo 2020

What is expected at the Grand Start?

The Grand Start will be smaller in size due to Covid regulations but there’s still a packed itinerary to enjoy. Highlights include local students performing the traditional ‘Hana Wa Saku’ (Flowers Will Bloom), a Japanese drum performance by Aizu Tazima Taiko Hozonkai and ‘Seeds +’, a marching band that will leave you humming along over the days to come.

The ceremony will take place on a stage adorned with flowers arranged using the traditional ikebana styles and techniques, featuring blooms produced mainly in the disaster-affected areas.

The event starts at 9am local time and will conclude with a children’s choir and residents of Fukushima cheering on the first torchbearers as the first ‘kiss’ takes place. The Grand Start, and the countdown to the Games, will then be underway.

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How can I follow the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay?

You can follow every step of the Olympic Torch Relay via a dedicated livestream as well as enjoy the best highlights and images from across all 121 days – whether you live in Japan or anywhere in the world – on this website.

The entire relay will also be broadcast live on national television in Japan and you can get involved by following the official Tokyo 2020 social media handles and join in the conversation by using the hashtags #Tokyo2020, #HopeLightsOurWay, #TorchRelay, #StrongerTogether and #OlympicFlame.

What should I expect to see?

The Olympic Torch Relay will visit the most famous sightseeing spots during its 121-day journey throughout Japan, as well as some of the more unique places from across all 47 prefectures.

Starting in Fukushima and ending in Tokyo, via Tochigi, Wakayama, Nara, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Yamagata…

You can see the entire route and day-by-day schedule by visiting the Olympic Torch Relay on Tokyo 2020 (English only).