Photo/IllutrationThe Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games meets on July 12 to approve the start of the 2020 Olympic flame relay. (Pool)

The Olympic torch relay will start in Fukushima Prefecture in 2020 to reinforce the image that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be about showcasing the reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games approved the plan at a meeting on July 12 to have the torch relay start in Fukushima Prefecture from March 26, 2020. The relay will then travel through all prefectures of Japan before entering Tokyo on July 10, 2020.

"The struggles and sadness experienced by residents of the three hardest-hit prefectures (of the 2001 earthquake and tsunami) are tremendous," Yoshiro Mori, the committee president, said at the organizing committee meeting. "Among the three, Fukushima Prefecture continues to be the one with the most number of evacuees."

Each prefecture will establish a committee to organize the relay within their jurisdiction. Those committees will decide on the exact route the Olympic flame will take through their prefectures. Those courses are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

The Olympic organizing committee will compile those route plans and decide on the specific course of the torch by summer 2019.

There were two proposals for the start of the Olympic torch relay.

One called for the start to be in one of the three hardest-hit prefectures from the 2011 disasters--Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.

The other was to follow the precedent set by the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics and start the relay in Okinawa Prefecture.

The experts panel within the organizing committee that considered the two proposals pointed out that starting the relay in the Tohoku region could lead to increased expenses because of the need for measures to deal with the cold weather in late March in those prefectures.

But organizing committee members increasingly held the view that there was a need to transmit the message that the Games would be all about recovery and rebuilding from the 2011 natural disasters and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

That led to the decision to start the relay in Fukushima Prefecture.

Under the general outline agreed to, once the flame leaves Fukushima Prefecture, it would proceed south through the northern Kanto region before moving westward to the Chubu, southern Kinki, Shikoku and Kyushu regions. The flame would be transported by ferry from Kyushu to Okinawa Prefecture and back.

The relay would then pass through the Chugoku, northern Kinki, Hokuriku and Tohoku regions before going to Hokkaido. From the northernmost main island, the relay will proceed along the Pacific coast of the main Honshu island and go through Iwate and Miyagi prefectures before making its way around the southern Kanto region and entering the nation's capital on July 10, 2020.

In Tokyo, the relay will extend over 15 days and pass through all 23 wards as well as outlying cities, towns and villages.

While the International Olympic Committee has set a broad outline for Olympic torch relays that they should be completed within 100 days, the Tokyo organizing committee has been granted an exception, and the relay will take up to 121 days.

Before the start of the Olympic torch relay, the organizing committee will display the flame brought to Japan from the traditional lighting ceremony in Greece as the "light of reconstruction" in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.