Wakayama torchbearer Konishi has lived with cancer for 15 years

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KONISHI Hiroyuki has worked as a PR ambassador for Wakayama Prefecture for 30 years. He is actively involved in promoting Kumano Kodo, which has just celebrated 15 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

He remembers going to wave the Japanese flag at the victory parade for local HAYATA Takuji on his return from the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games where he won a gold medal.

However, sadly in 2004 he was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer and accepted the diagnosis, but now he's lived with cancer for 15 years. Since then he has visited elementary and junior high schools throughout Japan, speaking about the importance of life at up to 100 schools each year.

Tell us about the attractions of Wakayama Prefecture.

It is a place of mountains and rivers, where one can relax in tranquility.

It has graciously welcomed people since ancient times.

It is full of mandarins, apricots, persimmons, peppers, miso, soy sauce and other speciality products.

It also has pandas.

It is the birthplace of the tradition of scattering rice cakes (mochi maki). Wakayama is truly a place where you can really enjoy yourself.

Tell us about any interesting things that have occurred due to Kumano Kodo being designated a World Heritage Area.

I was born in Kumano Kodo.

Many people from throughout the world come to do the ancient pilgrimage.

They enjoy walking the ancient paths that locals never walk. In fact, many locals don't know about these paths.

Now, for the first time, I am attempting to walk the old roads.

When you were diagnosed with cancer and told your life expectancy in 2005, how did you feel?

I was given the report on 27 December 2004.

"I want to live. I don't want to die," I shouted while crying, however, I think if you cry at night then you'll sleep soundly until the next morning.

I've learned to accept cancer but then again it all depends on your own feelings.

What do you want to convey to people by running as a torchbearer?

Even if you have a major illness, you can still play a part in this wonderful event. I want as many people as possible to be moved like I was when I waved the flag on that day when I was just five years old, and to have hope for the future.

Tell us what your expectations are as a torchbearer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

As a torchbearer, I have the responsibility to connect the flame throughout the world after it has been sent here to Tokyo. What could be better?