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Gigantic 'lucky cat' welcomes tourists in Rugby World Cup city

Passers-by look at a wooden sculpture representing a "manekineko" beckoning cat, regarded as inviting good luck in Japan, in Oita, on April 19, 2019. (Kyodo)

OITA, Japan (Kyodo) -- An enormous wooden "lucky cat" has been set up at one of this year's Rugby World Cup host cities in southwestern Japan, to welcome tourists ahead of the event's kickoff in September.

The woodcarving of the 10-meter-long cat named "Giant Lounging Lucky Cat Fukunyan" is on display in the center of Oita, which is to host three preliminary matches and two quarterfinals.

The cat is shown lying down with its forepaw holding up a sign with the word "TRY!"

The cat was originally created in memory of the late sculptor Fumio Asakura, who was born in Oita Prefecture in 1883 and left many works featuring cats after studying at Tokyo University of the Arts.

It is in the style of a "manekineko" beckoning cat, a common figurine in Japan that is regarded as inviting good luck.

Graduate students of the university took part in making the cat, which will be on display through the end of the World Cup in November.

"I hope overseas guests will talk about it as a rare statue," said Tsuyoshi Takahashi, a prefectural official in charge of promoting the sporting event.

It was first displayed at the sculptor's museum in the city of Bungoono in the prefecture last autumn.

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