Japanese nationals take part in Olympic Flame tour of the UK

The Olympic torch has steadily been making its way around the UK since its arrival on 18 May. By the time it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford for the Opening Ceremony on 27 July, 8000 people will have carried the torch on its route, including 3 Japanese nationals. Among those chosen to carry the torch was Sadaharu Mishina from Sendai City. Sendai is in the Tohoku region of Japan which suffered heavily from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. Mr Mishina's own family was directly affected as his two year old daughter lost her life to the tsunami. Yet despite such an incomprehensible loss, Mr Mishina continued to work hard and take care of the guests and employees at his workplace (ANA Holiday Inn Sendai). He was nominated to carry the Olympic torch by his colleagues for embodying "the spirit and strength of an Olympic champion; displaying integrity, honour and courage."

Mr Mishina travelled to the UK to complete his part of the torch relay in Morley Town on Monday 25 June. We spoke to him afterwards to ask him about his experience.

Is this your first time to come to the UK and how has your experience been so far?

Yes it's my first time. Well the place where I took part in the torch relay is more in the countryside, but now I have come to London and my impression is that there are a lot of old cultural buildings.

How did it feel when you found out that you had been selected to carry the Olympic torch?

When I first heard that I had been selected I was very excited, in fact I was very shocked! I had no idea that I had been nominated at all - but once I was selected, I thought I would like to do my best.

How was the actual experience of carrying the Olympic flame?

It was better than I could have imagined. I got a lot of encouragement and support from the local people. They were more excited than I was! At first I was quite nervous and all I could think of was if I could actually run well or not, but when I was actually standing on the route I was able to run, encouraged by the voices of the supporters.

Was the torch very heavy?

It is quite heavy! About 2 kilos? It includes the gas for the flame as well.

Are you looking forward to watching the Olympic Games? Which events in particular would you like to watch?

Yes. I'm looking forward to the events in which Japan can do well - for example Japanese people have a lot of expectation for the Women's football team. Also swimming is something that Japan can do well in and could win medals. I hope that London 2012 will be an occasion through which Japanese people can show they world that they can do well.

Do you play any sports?

Well I haven't played much recently, but when I was at school I used to play table tennis. Actually, I'm from the same region as the famous table tennis player Ai Fukuhara (click here to see our interview with her for our webmagazine earlier this year!) and we used to practice at the same place. She was an elementary school student at that time though so I didn't play against her!

What message would you like to give to the British public?

The main reason I was nominated as a torch bearer was because of The Great East Japan Earthquake. I work at a hotel and at that time people from the British Embassy in Japan used our hotel as a centre to give a support to the region. Now, after the earthquake, the recovery process is making progress. However, there is still much to do and I greatly appreciate the continued support of the British people in this regard.