Big in Japan: Ireland touch down for rugby's world party
Ireland's rugby team received a warm welcome from their World Cup hosts after touching down in Japan ahead of the month-long tournament.
The 31-man squad along with management and backroom staff left Dublin on Wednesday with the hopes of returning next month with the Webb Ellis trophy.
They were welcomed at a special ceremony yesterday at the Mihama Bunka Hall in Chiba where they will stay during the first week.
The town is around 50km from Tokyo but a far cry from the glistening city lights of the Japanese capital.
It is where Ireland will be based in their opening week to acclimatise to the conditions before facing Scotland in Yokohama city next Sunday.
They departed as scheduled despite deadly Typhoon Faxai striking landfall in the Chiba district. It has claimed the lives of three people.
As part of the official welcome ceremony yesterday, captain Rory Best was invited on stage to colour in the eye of a Daruma doll, modelled on the founder of the zen branch of Buddhism.
One eye is coloured in at the beginning of a task, and the second is coloured in at the completion of that objective.
The Ireland team arrived in Japan on Thursday as the number one ranked team in world rugby and head into the tournament hoping to become the first side to get past the quarter-final stages of the tournament.
After the euphoria of beating the All Blacks last November, Joe Schmidt's men struggled throughout the Six Nations and also suffered a thrashing by England in the warm-up games.
After playing their opening game against Scotland, the team will move on to Fukuroi city on Saturday where they face the host nation at Shizuoka Stadium.
Ireland will then head west for their Pool A game against Russia in Kobe City on Thursday, before their final group game against Samoa on October 12 in Fukuoka.