Lonely Planet Writer

Hundreds are queuing to catch a glimpse of Tokyo’s adorable new panda cub

Some 1200 people lined up hours before dawn on a chilly February morning for a chance to see Ueno Zoo’s newest star, giant panda cub Xiang Xiang, reports the Japan Times. Xiang Xiang (pronounced ‘shan shan’) was born in June of last year – the zoo’s first viable cub in 29 years.

Giant panda cub Xiang Xiang plays on a tree at Ueno Zoological Gardens on 1 February in Tokyo, Japan.  Image by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

She made her public debut last December, but then for only 2.5 hours a day. Through January, visitors were limited to just 2000 a day, selected by lottery. According to the Straits Times, there were nearly 250,000 applicants – even though viewings were limited to just a minute or two per group.

Crowds are delight at the sight of Xiang Xiang the panda in Tokyo. Image by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

As of 1 February, tickets for timed (and still short) viewings are available on a first-come first-served basis. Up to 9500 people a day will be allowed a glimpse so, in theory, you don’t need to get there quite so early.  Now 7.5 months old and 16.4 kg (as of 25 January), Xiang Xiang is big enough that zookeepers feel she can handle the attention for longer spans (but still small enough to be totally adorable).

The media in Japan has followed the gestation, birth and development of the cub with breathless anticipation – after all, poor parents Shin Shin and Ri Ri had been trying unsuccessfully for so long. It’s little wonder that the country has come down with panda fever. Local businesses have jumped on the opportunity, creating panda-themed food and souvenirs. For those who can’t make the trip, Ueno Zoo has a live cam.

By Rebecca Milner