With just about two months to go before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan for the first time, excitement is in the air in Higashiosaka, where the holy land of Japanese rugby -- Hanazono Rugby Stadium -- is located.
Hanazono stadium, modeled on English rugby's mecca Twickenham, in southwest London, will host four World Cup pool matches.
Here is a collection of pictures captured recently by Kyodo News photographers in the western Japan city:
(Elementary school pupils in Higashiosaka practice tag rugby -- a non-contact variant of the sport in which defenders attempt to snatch a velcro tab from a ball carrier's belt, in place of tugging and dragging them to the ground in a tackle)
(Visitors at Yoshidakasuga Shrine, nicknamed "Rugby Shrine" due to its proximity to Hanazono stadium, touch a big wooden rugby ball to pray for victory)
(Spectators take selfies at the newly renovated Hanazono Rugby Stadium)
(Higashiosaka mascot "Try-kun," known for its love of rugby, poses for photos with a couple who submitted their marriage registration at the city hall on May 1, 2019, the first day of the Reiwa imperial era in Japan)
(Rugby-inspired curry dish at a local restaurant features rice in the shape of a rugby ball, surrounded by two kinds of curry sauce)
(Officials at Higashiosaka city office kick off the annual summer Cool Biz campaign in May, wearing matching rugby shirts)