Thu, Nov 26, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Japan fans see World Cup star in statue of Buddha

AFP, TOKYO

A Buddhist statue said to pose like Japan rugby player Ayumu Goromaru is pictured at the Seki-Zenkoji temple in Seki, Japan.

Photo: AFP

A golden Buddha in Japan has attracted new — and unexpected — attention from rugby fanatics who are thronging to the statue to witness in person the hand gesture it shares with beloved World Cup hero Ayumu Goromaru.

The number of visitors to the religious-turned-sports shrine in central Japan has soared five-fold as eager fans descend on the Dainichi Nyorai statue, which has clasped hands with upward pointing index fingers touching each other — just like Goromaru’s trademark pre-kick pose.

“At weekends, more than 1,000 people pay homage a day,” the chief priest of Seki-Zenkoji temple, Shunkai Sato, said on Tuesday.

Goromaru, 29, propelled Japan to shock victory over South Africa in September, scoring 24 points in what is described as the biggest upset in the history of the World Cup.

Goromaru always assumes the iconic pose when preparing for penalty and conversion kicks and it has come to be widely mimicked by children and rugby fans alike.

Sato said that he never expected the 3m-high statue, located in the Gifu Prefecture, would come to be linked with the popular athlete.

Still, he welcomes the attention at the temple, the origins of which date to the late 18th century.

“I think it is a good thing because more people feel close to Buddhism and the Buddha here,” he said.

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