Scrums of Japanese rugby fans make pilgrimage to see Buddha statue with the Ayumu Goromaru pose
A golden Buddha in Japan has attracted new – and unexpected – attention from rugby fans who are thronging to the religious icon to witness in person the hand gesture it shares with their beloved Rugby 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 touching upward-pointing index fingers – just like Goromaru's trademark pre-kick pose.
Goromaru, 29, helped propel Japan to a shock victory over South Africa in September, scoring 24 points in the 34-32 triumph which has been described the biggest upset in the history of the Rugby World Cup.
Goromaru assumes the pose when preparing for penalty kicks and conversions, and it has come to be widely mimicked by Japanese youngsters and rugby fans alike.
Sato said he never expected the statue, which stands three metres tall, would come to be linked with the popular athlete.
Still, he welcomes all the extra 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.
The Dainichi Nyorai Buddha is usually depicted holding its hands in a different way, Sato said.
"The style of the statue is very rare," he said. "I have never seen it elsewhere."