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16:39 21 November 2015

Rugby fans rush to Buddha statue resembling popular player

GIFU, Japan, Nov. 21, Kyodo

A Buddhist temple in central Japan has been seeing a sudden surge in the number of visitors -- triple the usual levels -- since late October, as a rugby boom in the country following the World Cup led to the discovery that a Buddha statue there resembles a star Japanese player in preparing to kick.

The 3-meter-high copper statue at the Seki Zenkoji temple has its hands together in a peculiar style -- its thumbs and index fingers together with its other right-hand fingers covering the rest of the left-hand fingers -- conjuring up the image of Ayumu Goromaru in rugby fans' minds.

Temple master Shunkai Sato said several visitors to the temple in the city of Seki, Gifu Prefecture, told him about the resemblance between the statue and Goromaru's signature pose beginning in mid-October during the Rugby World Cup in England.

The 40-year-old priest then posted on Facebook about the topic, helping making it widely known.

"I'm surprised to see the huge response," Sato said.

The statue came to Japan from China about 100 years ago, according to the priest.

==Kyodo

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