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PRECOCIOUS PANDA. Female giant panda cub Xiang Xiang eats bamboo during a press preview at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. The six-month-old baby panda made a special appearance before Tokyo’s governor, a group of local schoolchildren, and the media a day ahead of the official public debut. Xiang Xiang means fragrance in Chinese. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool Photo via AP)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #1 (January 1, 2018), page 2.

Tokyo baby panda melts hearts of fans in debut

TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo’s new baby panda debuted formally last month, immediately melting the hearts of hundreds of lucky fans who managed to obtain zoo tickets, many wearing panda-themed clothes.

Xiang Xiang, which means fragrance in Chinese, was born in June at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo to its resident panda. The zoo and its neighborhood have celebrated the female panda’s healthy growth, especially after the death of a days-old baby five years ago.

"Kawaii (cute)!" screamed many visitors, their voices filling the panda house during the two-and-a-half hour viewing session, as Xiang Xiang crawled on the ground, followed its mother Shin Shin, climbed a tree, and played with bamboo branches. The visitors held up smartphones trying to capture every antic of the slow-moving baby panda during their less than 10 minutes of viewing time.

Many visitors decorated themselves or their children with panda motifs on hats, scarves, and even shoes and jackets, or wore black-and-white jackets. In and outside the zoo, panda goods of all kinds were on sale, including cookies, sweet buns, bread, and stuffed panda dolls. Some shopkeepers wore panda costumes.

Only 2,000 people were allowed into the panda house, with tickets distributed through a lottery. Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang’s public appearances will be limited for the time being to minimize stress.

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