Two representatives lit Olympic flames in Shiraoi & Sapporo, chronicling their feelings for the future

Yamamichi Hibiki speaks on his feelings about the Olympic flame after lighting the Olympic Cauldron (June 13, Shiraoi)
Yukawa Somu slowly tilts the torch and lights the Olympic Cauldron (June 14, Chuo-ku, Sapporo)

Lighting ceremonies in lieu of the Olympic torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics were held without spectators on June 13 and 14 at the Ainu culture revival hub “Ainu Culture Preservation Society (Upopoy)” in the Iburi region’s town of Shiraoi and Kitasanjo Square (Akapla) in Chuo-ku, Sapporo. Each representative runner lit the Olympic Cauldron atop the stage with the Olympic flame that had been carried by relay from Aomori Prefecture.

The representative runner at Upopoy on June 13 was Yamamichi Hibiki, a staff member of the Foundation for Ainu Culture in Shiraoi, and the representative runner at Akapla on June 14 was Yukawa Somu, a second year student in Sapporo City Ryoyo Junior High School.
When Yamamichi held the torch high and transferred the flame into the Olympic Cauldron, he waved the flame slowly up and down. This was a tribute to the Ainu worship practice called “Onkami”, in which the hands are moved up and down in honor of the gods. After finishing his mission, with a smile Yamamichi said, “I feel like this conveyed a sense of Ainu culture and the diversity of Hokkaido and Japan, and showed everyone that there are people with all kinds of different backgrounds here.”

A little after noontime on June 14, Yukawa left school early and hurried off to the ceremony. His teacher and friends saw him off, waving to him from the windows. Later, looking at the flame that he had lit in the Olympic Cauldron, he felt, “This is different from normal flames. This is a flame that lights Japan and the world.”

The relay that was initially planned to take place on public streets was cancelled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so the two representatives did not get to fulfill the dream of receiving the Olympic torch while running in the Olympic relay, but they were able to securely pass along an Olympic flame that will stay alight into the future.

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