As Yuzuru Hanyu aims to defend his men's figure skating Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, a shrine in western Japan has become a gathering spot for fans hoping to invoke a little divine help for their shining star.

Yuzuruha shrine in Kobe has become a magnet for the two-time reigning world champion's fans because its name bears more than a passing similarity to Hanyu's given name, Yuzuru.

Fans have been flocking to make offerings at the shrine ahead of their idol's first appearance at the ongoing Olympics, especially given the 23-year-old will make his competitive return from injury when he takes to the ice for the first time on Friday.

"I've been worried since he got injured, but I know he can win gold if he skates like he usually does. I prayed more than I usually do," said Hisami Sawase, who visited the shrine on Wednesday, a day after Hanyu practiced at the Gangneung Ice Arena for the second time.

Sawase, who makes monthly visits to the shrine, is one of many that offer their wishes for the Japanese figure skater's success. Now that Hanyu has become an international icon, fans from China, South Korea and Taiwan also make the pilgrimage.

Wooden votive plaques called "ema" with portraits and photographs of Hanyu line the shrine's grounds along with those that have hand-written messages from visitors wishing the skater luck.

Masayasu Sawada, a priest at the shrine, says the number of visitors has multiplied tenfold since Hanyu gained popularity after winning gold at the 2014 Sochi Games. More fans show up whenever he skates in competition and there are times when Sawada has to ask devotees for Hanyu's schedule so he can prepare for the wave of people to come.

Hanyu, who in attempting to win consecutive gold medals is trying to match a 66-year-old record, has also made four visits to the shrine.

"He is a lovable, nice man, but there were times when I noticed that he has the dignity of a champion," Sawada, 64, said. "I understand why people would want to support him."

Hanyu injured his right ankle during practice at the NHK Trophy in November and has not skated competitively since. In Pyeongchang, he hopes to become the first back-to-back men's champion since Dick Button of the United States in 1948 and 1952.

Chie Kawahara, a 57-year-old local, wrote on her ema, "I hope Hanyu can pull off his best performance."

"I couldn't stand still. I want him to do better than he did at Sochi, especially because he sustained the injury. I know he can do it," Kawahara said.

More on Yuzuru Hanyu:

Olympics: Hanyu continues buildup in front of another huge media gaggle

Olympics: I'll make comeback in Pyeongchang worth the wait: Hanyu

Olympics: Hanyu completes first practice ahead of gold medal defense

Olympics: Absent Hanyu putting blood and tears into Olympic comeback

Olympics: Hanyu eyes Olympic immortality in Japan's record medal chase

Olympics: Hanyu will be 100% ready to defend title, says coach Orser