Japan's bodypaint superfan adds gloss to Rugby World Cup

Fukuroi (Japan) (AFP) –


A Japanese rugby superfan is making a splash at this year's Rugby World Cup by having his upper body painted in the colours of all 20 competing teams.

Hiroshi Moriyama, 53, said he got the idea from an Auckland Blues fan who had covered himself in blue paint and wanted to spice up the often passive atmosphere at Japanese club rugby games.

"In the Top League games we go to watch regularly, the crowds are often very serious and watch the matches in silence," he complained. "I wanted to do something to change that."

Moriyama plans to attend 27 of the 48 Rugby World Cup games, getting his wife to daub his upper body with special paint to make it appear as if he is wearing the team jersey.

"My husband is very attentive to detail and I have to admit I'm still struggling to draw the smaller letters and precise patterns," said Rika Moriyama, 54.

It was rugby that brought the Moriyamas together -- they met at the university club where Hiroshi played and Rika managed.

Like many veteran rugby players, he has moved forward in the pack as age catches up with him.

A former number eight, he now packs down in the second row for an over-50s side. He took several years out of the game and "when I came back, I couldn't run at all", he laughed.

He was initially worried Japan would not embrace the World Cup and wanted to contribute in his unique way to the atmosphere.

But he said he doesn't know now why he was even worried, seeing the packed stadiums for the games.

"I am impressed with the number of people who are coming to games. Of course, there are a lot of foreigners but also a lot of Japanese," he told AFP.

"What a joy to see such enthusiasm."

He hopes Japanese rugby will be able to convert this enthusiasm into "taking root as a culture in Japan."

Rika Moriyama shrugged off concerns about the cost of travelling to the games and buying tickets.

"We're really just here to have fun so we're not too hung up on the amount," she said.

"When I see the smiles of people when they see my husband, I say to myself that it's really worth the effort and gives me strength for all the jerseys I've still got to do."