The public has spoken: Xiang Xiang is the name of Ueno Zoo’s newest star

by

Staff Writer

The new star at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo has been named Xiang Xiang, the kanji for which can mean either “fragrance” or “popular” in Chinese.

After months of waiting and a record-breaking number of suggestions, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Monday announced the name of the female giant panda cub born in June at Japan’s oldest zoo.

Cameras flashed as the panda’s name appeared on a television monitor during a news conference at Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters.

“I hope you will all love Xiang Xiang the panda,” Koike said, explaining that out of the eight final candidate names, narrowed down from a long list, Xiang Xiang was the most popular.

Koike said that Xiang Xiang will make her public debut with her mother in December.

The city received a record 322,581 suggestions from the public to name of the panda cub, which was born on June 12. According to the rules, each person was allowed to submit only one entry, and each suggestion had to be written in katakana.

Xiang Xiang was suggested 5,161 times.

“The name is easy to say,” Koike said. “The name is cute and sounds as though it has a fragrance.”

The previous record for suggestions received was around 273,000 for the panda cub that was born in 1986. That panda ended up being named Tong Tong.

Xiang Xiang was born to mother Shin Shin and father Ri Ri. The previous cub, born at the zoo in 2012, died within a week, raising concern over whether Xiang Xiang would survive.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government waited until the cub had turned 100 days old before announcing its name, following a Chinese saying that holds a cub that survives its first 100 days will grow up to be strong.

“Thanks to you all, the baby panda has been growing healthily and is becoming more panda-like every day,” said Yutaka Fukuda, head of Ueno Zoo.

The zoo, which opened in 1882, received its first pandas — Kan Kan and Ran Ran — from China in 1972, igniting a nationwide panda boom. Since then, it has become the zoo’s tradition to give the pandas raised there names that feature repeating syllables.

In the 1980s, the zoo saw the birth of pandas Tong Tong and You You, names based again on suggestions from the public.

Pandas have been Ueno Zoo’s most popular attraction, drawing crowds whenever a new one is born. In June, Kansai University estimated the new cub would boost the Tokyo area economy by ¥26.7 billion over a year.

Information from JIJI added.