Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay Arrives in Chugoku Region Amid COVID Surge

A much scaled down Olympic torch relay will be making its way through Hiroshima and the Chugoku Region over the next few days.

The Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay was supposed to start sharing its light of hope around the entire Chugoku region, starting in Yamaguchi Prefecture today. Some form of the event will be taking place in each prefecture between today and May 22. However, due to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, for the most part, it will be in a much truncated form and away from the eyes of the public.

Yamaguchi Prefecture (May 13-14)

Day one of the relay in Yamaguchi planned for today which was to pass through Iwakuni, Yanai, Hikari, Kudamatsu, Shunan, Hofu, Yamaguchi City, has been pulled from public roads and will be replaced with a spectator less lighting ceremony in Central Park in Yamaguchi City. Day two will go ahead, but the Shimonoseki (the area closet to Fukuoka Prefecture which is struggling with high rates of COVID-19 infection) has been cancelled. The route through western Yamaguchi is Ube – Sanyo-onoda – Mine – Nagato – Hagi.

Shimane Prefecture (May 15-16)

Bizarrely, Shimane Prefecture, which made national headlines when it announced it was considering canceling the relay a couple of months ago, is the only prefecture in the Chugoku region to go ahead with the event as originally planned. It will pass through 14 towns and villages and involve 174 runners.

May 15 Tsuwano – Chibumura – Masuda – Hamada – Gotsu – Kawamoto – Ohnan

May 16 Oda – Izumo – Unnan – Okuizumo – Okinoshima, Yasugi – Matsue

Hiroshima Prefecture (May 17-18)

The torch relay on public roads canceled and will be replaced with a lighting ceremony in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (closed to the public) on day one and a ceremony at Fukuyama Sports Hall on day 2 which may employ a “torch kiss” relay with no running involved (also closed to the public).

IOC president Thomas Bach was due to attend the planned ceremony in Peace Park (before which Hiroshima’s traditional swimming team were to swim the torch across the Motoyasu River in front of the A-bomb Dome) , but his trip to Japan has been canceled due to the prevailing 4th wave of COVID-19 infections.

Okayama Prefecture (May 19-20)

The torch relay has been pulled from local roads and will be replaced by lighting ceremonies (closed to the public) at Okama Castle on day one and in Tsuyama on day two.

Tottori Prefecture (May 21-22)

The relay will go ahead in Tottori Prefecture, but the route has been shortened from 32.2km to 17km and a limited number of spectators have to apply in advance to witness the event.