Rugby supporters from around the globe have flocked to Japan for the Rugby World Cup in massive numbers since the tournament kicked off last month, but it is a local fan who is standing out in the crowd.
- Hiroshi Moriyama plans to body paint the jerseys of all 20 Rugby World Cup teams on his torso during the tournament
- Moriyama has become a fan favourite in Japan, as a well as a social media sensation
- His commitment to the cause was displayed when he attended two matches on the same day
Hiroshi Moriyama, also known by the nickname “Bak-san”, has become a cult hero at the World Cup after pledging to body paint the jerseys of all 20 teams on his torso.
He has tickets to 27 of the 48 matches in Japan and has become a crowd favourite, both at the stadiums and on the TV broadcasts, often seen with a beer in hand as he enjoys the on-field action.
His exploits are also being chronicled on Twitter, with the hashtag #BakSansBack growing in popularity.
@rugbyworldcup tweet: “Famous Japanese fan Bak-san has said he would paint all 20 team jerseys on his body throughout #RWC2019”
“Most Japanese rugby fans are quiet when they watch games, and I thought it would be good if they were a bit noisier,” Mr Moriyama told the Japan Times.
“I took that to the extreme in the hope that other people would see me having fun.”
Hiss commitment to the cause was illustrated on Thursday when he attended two World Cup matches held in different cities.
After wearing the white and black of the Fiji jersey when the Fijians played Georgia in Higashiosaka, Moriyama made the trek to Kobe — an hour and 15 minutes away via train — to wear the emerald green of Ireland for its fixture against Russia.
@FreemanrugbyJPN tweet: @saiusujersey san You are a legend. Two #RWC2019 games in one day.
Earlier in the tournament he watched the Russia vs Samoa pool match in Kumagaya, before taking a five-hour train journey to Kamaishi the following day to take in Uruguay’s encounter with Fiji.
@saiusujersey tweet: “Does anyone have an idea for a simple and short message in Italian language on my back to cheer up Italy @Federugby at Ecopastadium tonight?”
Mr Moriyama, a former rugby union player, leaves the painting duties to his wife, Rika.
The process can take a few hours, with the intricate details of each jersey — such as the manufacturer’s emblem — included.
A message is also painted on his back, with “Go Manu” used in support of Samoa, while “Eddie welcome back” was emblazoned when he had the English jersey painted on his torso in recognition of former Japan coach Eddie Jones, who is now in charge of England.
“There are some really small details which look difficult to do,” Mr Moriyama said.
“I don’t do anything. I just stand there.”
He has been spreading his support among the World Cup teams as much as he can during the early stages of the pool section.
The Wallabies were the recipient of Mr Moriyama’s backing during their crucial match against Wales in Tokyo last Sunday.
The 53-year-old wore the green and gold during what was a thrilling match, which the Welsh won 29-25 to top Pool D.
Wales, however, has not been forgotten by Mr Moriyama, who proudly sported the red and white of its jersey when Warren Gatland’s team defeated Georgia 43-14 in their tournament opener in Toyota.
Mr Moriyama began wearing body paint five years ago when attending club matches in Japan’s Top League.
He has indicated in the Japanese media he will not continue the body painting once the World Cup finishes and he returns to his office job in Osaka.
But for the time being, his support is being welcomed by all the teams competing in the World Cup, as well as the hundreds of thousands of spectators in Japan.