After handover in Athens, Flame touches down in Miyagi as countdown to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay begins
The Olympic Flame reached Japanese soil for the first time in 56 years on Friday (20 March), landing at Matsushima Air Base in Miyagi Prefecture to a rapturous ceremony.
The charter flight carrying the flame touched down at 9:36am local time, arriving 90 minutes earlier than scheduled against strong, biting winds swooping in from the sea.
The flame, encased in a rose-gold lantern, was deplaned by a pair of three-time Olympic champions from Japan - Yoshida Saori (wrestling) and Nomura Tadahiro (judo), who were originally set to carry the torch in Athens during Thursday's handover ceremony before the plan had to be abandoned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Using the torch, Yoshida and Nomura lit the cauldron on stage as the Blue Impulse aerobatic team streaked above them with contrails in the Olympic colours of red, blue, yellow, green and black.
Yoshida and Nomura were joined on stage by Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshiro, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yamashita Yashuhiro and a host of Games ambassadors.
The flame will be on public display for the next five days in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima - three prefectures that have found their way back from the 11 March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami which devastated the eastern coastline of Japan.
Recovery is a theme of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Mori, who was 27 the last time Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games in 1964, said he is looking forward to the Torch Relay getting under way on 26 March from the J-Village national training center in Fukushima.
"For the first time in 56 years, the torch will come to Tokyo". Mori said. "We hope the Torch Relay will serve as a beacon of inspiration for many people.
"Starting from the J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture on the 26th of March, the Torch Relay will be run nationwide. Carrying the hopes of people from all over Japan, the flame will arrive at the National Stadium on 24 July with much anticipation".
After spending two days in Fukushima, the relay will pass through Tochigi, Gunma and Nagano from 29 March to 3 April.
Yoshida, who is angling for another opportunity to carry the torch after missing out in Athens, hopes the flame being in Japan will give people something to cheer about as the world combats the coronavirus.
"I watched the Handover Ceremony live and could not be happier to see the Flame in Japan after making its way from Greece", she said.
"We are all going through difficult times at the moment but I hope the Torch Relay gives everyone something to look forward to, something to be excited about". - Yoshida Saori