To mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese giant pandas in Japan, Tokyo's Ueno Zoo has recently set up a "Giant Panda Post Office". Early Friday morning, visitors came to the post office of the zoo to buy limited edition of giant panda stamps for the anniversary.
On Oct. 28, 1972, a pair of giant pandas, Kang Kang and his partner Lan Lan, arrived at Ueno Zoo as a gift from China to commemorate the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, sparking an unprecedented panda craze in Japan. The annual number of visitors to the zoo soared to a record high of 9.2 million in 1973.
In the queue waiting to buy the commemorative stamps, some people wore masks with giant panda pictures, some were carrying bags with giant panda patterns, some were covered in panda accessories, and some were holding giant panda dolls in their arms. Whether it was a gray-haired man or a babbling kid, they expressed love for giant pandas in their own way.
Miho Nakagawa, known as the "giant panda reporter", was at the front of the line. She told Xinhua that she has been to 23 countries and regions in order to see giant pandas. In 2019, she published a monograph on giant pandas, telling the stories of giant pandas around the world.
Today, Nakagawa has become a full-time reporter, taking various photos related to giant pandas every day and sharing them with the Japanese people on the Internet.
Seventy-three-year-old Kikue Hisatsune told Xinhua about her visit to Ueno Zoo to see the pandas 50 years ago. "I asked for a special leave when I heard I could see giant pandas." Now, retired Hisatsune has become a giant panda volunteer at the zoo to help more visitors, especially children, to learn about pandas.
Sanpei Hayashiya, a well-known Japanese rakugo comedian, also showed up at the zoo with his wife on the anniversary. Hayashiya has lived near the Ueno Zoo since he was a child, and he still remembered the first time he saw giant pandas.
"I was five years old at that time, and I had to wait in a very long line to see the pandas," Hayashiya said, adding that now that he has become a father, he often comes here to see the pandas with his son.
Tadao Futatsugi, honorary president of the Ueno Tourism Federation and a full-time giant panda ambassador, has a huge collection of giant panda dolls. "Giant pandas make Ueno full of energy," he said.
Katsuhiro Miyamoto, professor emeritus of Kansai University in Osaka prefecture, took Xiang Xiang, a giant panda born in 2017, for an example and estimated that the female had brought a 26.7 billion yen economic effect to Ueno Park and its surrounding stores.
"Wow, that's so cute!" At 10:00 a.m., the Panda Forest at Ueno Zoo opened its gate. Excited voices echoed from the crowd. Camera shutters sounded non-stop as the giant pandas turned and twisted to the delight of the visitors.
Toshimitsu Doi, former director of Ueno Zoo, told Xinhua that Ueno Zoo has made great efforts in the raising and breeding of giant pandas over the past 50 years, and China's Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has provided tremendous support.
"When the pandas were to deliver cubs, we would always invite Chinese instructors to come guide us on the spot. They were very skilled and professional in every detail and taught us everything," Doi said.
Many visitors expressed their deep affection for the pandas during the interview. "Giant pandas are like our own precious children. Watching them from birth to growth, their every move touches our hearts."
"Giant pandas are ambassadors of peace and happiness. We will always love pandas," Futatsugi's words have spoken the mind of the Japanese people who love giant pandas.