The following year, she became the youngest player ever to become a member of the Japanese national team. At age 13 (in 2002), she reached the quarterfinals of the Japan table tennis championships.
In the following year, Fukuhara finished fifth in the world championships in Paris. In 2004, she took part in the world team championships and helped Team Japan finish third. She also speaks impeccable Chinese.
The 16th leg torch relay of the Beijing Olympic flame started at 8:30 a.m. local time Saturday morning in Nagano city of central Japan. (Xinhua Photo)
"I feel much honored to be a torchbearer than being able to compete in the Olympic stage," said Fukuhara.
"I learn a quite different culture from China than that in Japan. Table tennis is playing a role in bridging me with others and helping me make a lot of friends."
It's the second time for Fukuhara to carry the Olympic flame after the first trial in 2004 Athens Games.
"Four years ago, I had been a torchbearer, but I was a little bit scared of fire. Now, I'm not that scared any more," she said.
"The Beijing Olympic Games is a favorite for me. I am more familiar with China than other foreign athletes, so I won't be nervous and I want some cheers from Chinese fans," added Fukuhara.
Police said on Friday a man had been arrested after being caught carrying a knife and a statement of protest.
Nagano is the capital city of Nagano Prefecture, situated in the northern part of the prefecture near the junction of the Chikuma River and the Sai River, on the main island of Honshu, Japan.
As of July 1, 2006, the city has an estimated population of 378,059. The total land area is 737.86 square kilometers.
Nagano is most famous for Zenko-ji, a 7th century Buddhist temple which overlooks the city. A million tourists visit Nagano annually, the gateway to a variety of sightseeing spots.
In 1998, Nagano played host to the XVIII Olympic Winter Games. The flame's next stop is Seoul. Over the next few days, the torch will stop in South Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Vietnam before wrapping up its international journey.