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Updated : January 29, 2021

Introduction of Olympic torchbearer 01

  Running with the Torch Bearers holding the Torch my family risked our lives to make.

【 Kawaguchi city 】 Mr.Akishige Suzuki

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The casting craftsmen of Kawaguchi City, Mannosuke and Bungo Suzuki, contracted to building the flame holder for the old National Stadium. After the passing of his father, Mannosuke, Mr. Akishige Suzuki worked alongside his older brother, Bungo, to complete the flame holder. Looking at the previous torch relay of the Tokyo Olympics, he felt the desire to run himself. He will raise the torch as a runner together with his now, deceased family.

 

—Please tell us about the time the flame holder was built?

The flame holder was made for the Asian Games held in Tokyo in 1958. At a time when craftsmen for flame holders could not be found, the then mayor of Kawaguchi City, Motoyoshi Ōno (governor of now Saitama Prefecture and grandfather of Motohiro Ōno), was asked by Masaji Tabata, a candidate of the Tokyo Olympics. This led to the manufacturing of the torch holder in Kawaguchi. With the skills then, to create a large torch holder was really tough, but my father (Mannosuke Suzuki) accepted the request and started working on it with my older brother (Bungo).

 

—It seems that the production of the torch holder was extremely tough. 

The first torch holder that was built was not able to endure the pressure, leading the bolt to blow off, creating a hole, and resulting in failure. My father passed away 8 days later due to the shock. At this time, there was only a month left until the deadline for the torch holder to be built. Although I was a wooden mold prototype craftsman and not a casting craftsman, I took a break from my job to help out with the production given my mother’s words: “Your father passed away working for dear life; you guys should help out as well”. With consideration of not shocking my older brother who was in the front line of production, the news regarding our father’s death was not told until after the funeral. After the then-Minister of Construction, Ichirō Kōno (grandfather of Tarō Kōno, present minister appointed by the Cabinet Office), found out the hardship faced when making the torch holder, it was decided that the torch holder would be reused for the Tokyo Olympics and that a new torch holder would not be made. 

 

 

—What were some of the emotions you felt the moment the torch holder was lit with flame during the opening ceremony in 1964?

The moment the final runner of the torch relay, Yoshinori Sakai (19 at the time), went up the stairs of the old National Stadium, raised the torch and lit the torch holder, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I admired Mr. Sakai’s run, and I felt the desire to do it myself. The Olympic games will be held once again in Tokyo. Hearing that the torch relay will go past Kawaguchi City, I knew I had to run for sure. I’d like to run carrying the thoughts of my family and my father who died prior to the completion of the torch holder.

 

—It seems that you currently work as a wooden mold prototype craftsman.

 

Wooden molds are the base of molding in casting; they are used for packing sand and pulling out a mold. As vice president of “Kawaguchi Metalwork Handicraft Workshop”, I am working on succeeding techniques to younger generations. At the metalwork handicraft class, there are lots of opportunities to teach individuals about casting, but as a wooden mold prototype craftsman, I hold private exhibitions as well.

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—Has it been over 50 years since you started playing softball?

As a member who founded the Minamihatogaya 3 Chōme Softball Club which has been around for more than 50 years locally, I play every week with people from the region. The team consists of players who are in their 70s with me being the only 80-year-old; I am the only member that’s been part of the team ever since the club was founded. Similar to when I am holding the metalwork handicraft class, I like working/playing with younger generations perhaps because I can keep feeling young.  

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—What is something you’ve been working on for the torch relay?

Because the Olympics have been delayed a year, I feel the need to prepare another year. Other than playing softball, I cycle a bank alongside Shiba River for 5km everyday. In addition, I’ve been continuously walking 2 to 3 km. Running comes easy to me; I’ve almost always been first in my school’s marathon races.

 

—What kind of emotions do you want to embody on the day of running the torch relay?

As a matter of fact, the day in which the torch relay takes place in Kawaguchi City is July 6th, which is the day my older brother, Bunko, passed away. This makes me feel a deep connection between my family and the Olympic games. The starting point of Kawaguchi City’s torch relay is Aokichō Park. At Aokichō Park, the failed flame holder that was first built is neatly arranged and on display. Whenever I visit, I feel like I can meet my father and brothers again. I would like to run with the best of my abilities knowing that my deceased family members are cheering me on.

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Mr. Akishige Suzuki's recommendation

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Aokichō Park Comprehensive Athletic Field (Aokichō Park)

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