Photo/IllutrationIsamu Miyagi, the first torchbearer, sprints after starting from Naha Airport in Okinawa Prefecture, which was under U.S. sovereignty in 1964, for the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Provided by the association of Olympic photograph and Pool)

In an unprecedented move, the Olympic torch will visit three prefectures in the disaster-hit Tohoku region before starting its relay in Okinawa Prefecture, Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics sources said April 5.

The sacred flame, which will be brought from Greece, is to be lit during the three events in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures before being moved to the southernmost prefecture to start the relay in late March, the sources said.

Under the plans being drawn up by the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the torch relay will last about 115 days until July 24, the day of the opening ceremony.

The three Tohoku region prefectures chosen for the special events were struck by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and the intention is to send the message that the world’s biggest sporting event will be “the Olympic Games for reconstruction.”

Negotiations with the International Olympic Committee over the implementation of the events will be necessary, as such events have never been held prior to a torch relay before.

Seven prefectures, including the three in the Tohoku region, plus Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa and Shizuoka, which will all have at least two competition venues, are expected to be allotted three days of the relay each.

Tokyo will likely be designated 15 days, and the remaining 39 prefectures will see the torch passing through for two days each.

However, exceptions may be made for other disaster-hit areas in Kyushu, which could be allotted more than two days each.

“We should also pay attention to Kumamoto Prefecture and nearby regions damaged by the series of earthquakes in April 2016,” said a source close to the project.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo organizing committee, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, head of the National Governors' Association, and others are scheduled to discuss the outline plan at a meeting on April 10.

The potential prefectures to host the start of the relay included those in the Tohoku regions that were hit by the 2011 disaster, and Okinawa Prefecture, which was the starting point of the torch relay for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was under U.S. sovereignty at that time.

In the end, Okinawa was chosen due to concerns over possible snowfall in the Tohoku regions in March.