Feature: Japan-born panda Xiang Xiang connects fans in Tokyo-Xinhua

Feature: Japan-born panda Xiang Xiang connects fans in Tokyo

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-04-10 00:23:30

Panda lovers present panda-shaped buns during the "cloud gathering" and fan-sharing event for panda Xiang Xiang in Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 2024. (Xinhua/Jiang Qiaomei)

TOKYO, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Despite torrential rains on Tuesday morning, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of panda lovers gathering here for a fan-sharing event for Xiang Xiang, a Japan-born panda who returned to China last year.

Among them was Yu Akutsu, a panda wood sculptor from Saitama prefecture who arrived at the Chinese embassy in Japan clad in panda-themed attire. He inscribed a heartfelt message to Xiang Xiang and pinned it onto the wall of blessings dedicated to the beloved panda.

Xiang Xiang, a female panda born in June 2017 at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, was the first panda naturally born and raised at the zoo in the nearly three decades since You You, born in 1988. Her parents, Shin Shin (female) and Ri Ri (male), were both on loan from China, where the ownership of the cubs they give birth to belongs.

After her birth created a sensation in Japan, from her name, and public debut, to her birthdays, Xiang Xiang has always been a trending topic in local media and a popular star among Japanese people.

The name Xiang Xiang was chosen from more than 320,000 suggestions that people sent to the zoo three months after she was born.

In February this year, Xiang Xiang returned to Sichuan, which is known as the hometown of giant pandas.

Approximately 200 panda fans from across Japan were attracted to Tuesday's "cloud gathering" and fan-sharing event, which was also attended by Wu Jianghao, the Chinese ambassador to Japan, Deputy Governor of Tokyo Rinji Nakamura, and Wu Hailong, president of China Public Diplomacy Association.

They tuned in online to witness Xiang Xiang's daily life at the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base, a giant panda research and breeding facility in China's southwestern province of Sichuan.

The fans also interacted with Xiang Xiang's caregiver, Zhao Lanlan, and gained insights into the panda's current well-being.

In his address, Ambassador Wu Jianghao emphasized that pandas symbolize the gentle and friendly culture of China, representing goodwill and harmony.

As both Chinese and Japanese peoples cherish giant pandas, he advocated for peaceful coexistence, generational friendship, mutual cooperation and common development.

The ambassador also expressed his hope for more interactions between the two nations through the endearing giant panda, fostering Sino-Japanese friendship and cooperation for stable and healthy bilateral relations.

Wu Hailong said that Xiang Xiang, alongside other pandas residing in Japan, has made unique contributions to enhancing the friendship between the Chinese and Japanese people, serving as a bridge of affection.

He warmly welcomed the Japanese public to visit Xiang Xiang in China, hoping that the panda family would continue to bring joy and friendship to both nations.

Yutaka Fukuda, director of Ueno Zoo, shared the zoo's history with Chinese giant pandas and Xiang Xiang's journey from birth to maturity.

He pledged continued cooperation with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, aiming to contribute to wildlife conservation and the development of Sino-Japanese friendship.

In October 1972, the pioneering visit of giant pandas Kang Kang and Lan Lan marked the beginning of Sino-Japanese panda diplomacy, and Japan's panda fever has never waned over the past 50 years.

As cuddly envoys of friendship between China and Japan, giant pandas have continuously strengthened mutual understanding and communication, nurturing the enduring "panda bond" between the two nations.

In November last year, panda photographer Takahiro Takauji, who also runs the famous blog "Mainichi Panda," embarked on his first trip to China. He not only fulfilled his long-standing wish to reunite with Xiang Xiang but also witnessed firsthand the development and changes in China.

In March of this year, he returned to Sichuan and experienced "Chinese speed" by taking the high-speed rail alone, truly feeling the warmth and hospitality of the Chinese people. "The stage for Xiang Xiang in China has already been set, and I am full of expectations and excitement for its future," the photographer said after two visits.

Messages left on the wall for Xiang Xiang included promises from Japanese fans to visit her when they have the chance. According to the China National Tourism Office in Tokyo, many Japanese travel agencies are launching panda sightseeing tours to Sichuan, citing the opportunity to see Xiang Xiang, and the response has been extremely enthusiastic with many sign-ups.

Besides pandas, Sichuan also boasts scenic spots like the UNESCO World Heritage site Jiuzhaigou Valley, and it is hoped that more Japanese people will explore the natural beauty of Sichuan through Xiang Xiang and develop an affection for China by getting to know and appreciating Sichuan, according to a staff member with the administration.

A Japanese panda lover captures a screenshot as a video footage of panda Xiang Xiang is played during the "cloud gathering" and fan-sharing event for her in Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 2024. (Xinhua/Jiang Qiaomei)