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Japanese restaurants put out welcome mat for Rugby World Cup

This photo shows a Hamburg steak in the shape of a rugby ball, served in Higashiosaka. (Supplied photo, Kyodo)
This photo shows Gyoza dumplings in a scrum formation, served in Higashiosaka. (Supplied photo, Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- As the Rugby World Cup gets under way in Japan, fans and tourists will have a choice of specialty local fare at restaurants and bars to commemorate the sport's showcase event.

    Featuring menus of rugby-themed fare and drinks, the outlets aim to put the country's culinary hospitality on the map during the event that runs Sept. 20 to Nov. 2.

    In Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, home to Hanazono Rugby Stadium -- the country's most hallowed rugby ground -- around 160 restaurants and bars will participate in a "rugby bar" pub crawl, with each offering a specialty menu for a flat 500 yen ($4.60) for one month until Oct. 20.

    Some of the shops will serve hamburg steak, similar to Salisbury steak, and cream-puff desserts in the shape of a rugby ball, or gyoza dumplings served in a scrum formation.

    "These items will all be discounted for this limited time, so we want people to go pub hopping," said an official organizing the event.

    Known as a rugby town home to Top League teams Toshiba Brave Lupus and Suntory Sungoliath, the district of Fuchu in western Tokyo will also be the scene for enthusiastic fans during the opening match between Japan and Russia at nearby Tokyo Stadium (Ajinomoto Stadium).

    Outlets will hope to attract customers who are watching games on a giant screen at a nearby public viewing site.

    The Hotel Continental Fuchu will prepare an omelet rice dish in the shape of a rugby ball, as well as original team cocktails representing the 20 participating nations.

    Organizers have arranged 16 fan zones, where ticketless visitors can watch games on giant screens with alcohol and snacks in hand in 12 cities across Japan.

    Oita Prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu, has devised a menu featuring its take on fish and chips, using local ingredients such as yellowtail, dried mushrooms, and kabosu citrus fruit. Shops will hope to cater to thirsty rugby fans who drink beer with the traditional British dish.

    Many sports bars, which will televise games live, have also jumped on the rugby culinary bandwagon.

    D's Diner, a beer hall in Tokyo's tourist hotspot of Asakusa, has collaborated with a New Zealand winery and will decorate its premises with the team flag and kit of the All Blacks powerhouse. The menu will be remodeled to include New Zealand food and drinks.

    "Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We hope a lot of people come out to enjoy the World Cup," said manager Norihiko Sato, 45.

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