Japan: Rugby fans flock to Buddha statue

Ayumu Goromaru's preparing to take a kick Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ayumu Goromaru's pre-kick stance has been seen somewhere before

Rugby fans have been flocking to a Buddhist temple in central Japan to see a statue which they think resembles one of their sporting heroes.

The 3m-high figure, at Seki Zenkoji Temple in Gifu Prefecture, has its hands held together with both index fingers pointing to the sky - a pose also favoured by Japan's star full-back Ayumu Goromaru in the moments before a kick attempt. The temple's master, Shunkai Sato, says visitor numbers have tripled since October, when the Rugby World Cup reached its peak, the Kyodo news agency reports. The tournament saw Japan win three of their four group games, including an astonishing win against South Africa. The shock result made a household name of Goromaru, who scored 24 of Japan's 34 points in the match.

Earlier this month, an 18-strong high school rugby team made the trip to the shrine to pray for success in an forthcoming tournament. "I hope to make accurate kicks, just like Goromaru," one player told The Asahi Shimbun. The website points out that while many Buddhist statues often have their hands together, the index finger pose is not common. The figure is thought to have originated in China 500 years ago, and has been at the temple for a century.

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