- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) - The Japanese always have some of the most spirited - and outlandish - fans at the World Cup.

As Pernambuco Stadium filled up for the Blue Samurai’s first match against Ivory Coast, a tiny Japanese girl walked by dressed as an enormous football, cute cuddly toys hanging from her neck and a Dr. Seuss hat perched on her head.

Many Japan supporters sported samurai top-knot wigs while wearing the blue jerseys of their favorite players. Others had headbands painted with the Japanese “hinomaru” flag and VICTORY written in slashing Japanese characters.

Koichi Ikeda was in the stands with two other friends, their heads transformed into gigantic “daruma” good-luck charm dolls. The blank eyes of the daruma are filled with black when your wishes come true. Ikeda says one eye will be painted Sunday, the other after Japan’s game next Thursday against Greece.

- By Joji Sakurai - www.twitter.com/jojisakurai

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MANAUS OPERA HOUSE

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) - Local singer Marcia Siqueira was rehearsing at the Amazon theater in downtown Manaus, and he didn’t seem to object as England and Italy fans snapped photos and looked around in awe inside the ornate opera house, one of the jungle city’s top cultural gems.

Inaugurated in 1896 at the height of the rubber boom, the theater was built with a mixture of imported materials from Europe - marble from Carrara, Italy; cast iron from Paris; Murano glass from Venice - and local resources from the surrounding rain forest.

The theater holds an opera festival each spring.

Known for its dome of ceramic tiles painted in the colors of the Brazilian flag, the walls of the building are pink. From about 1960-90, though, the outer walls were painted in a drab gray and green in accordance with the military dictatorship of those decades.

- By Andrew Dampf - www.twitter.com/asdampf

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WARM WELCOME

CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) - Hundreds of noisy Iranian football fans cheered their team Saturday as it arrived in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba for its first game of the World Cup.

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