Ueno Zoo to make panda-viewing easier with new system and extended hours

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of Tokyo’s female giant panda cub Xiang Xiang will no longer need to depend on luck as of Feb. 1, when a lottery will be replaced with a first come, first served system.

Ueno Zoo will start distributing tickets from 9:30 a.m. in front of its five-story pagoda near the main entrance.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government also said the zoo will extend viewing sessions to accommodate more people now that Xiang Xiang’s health has stabilized. Up to 9,500 viewing tickets will be handed out each day.

Xiang Xiang made her first public appearance on Dec. 19, becoming the zoo’s first cub to debut in 29 years. Under the current system, panda lovers need to apply online or by telephone and hope they’re selected by chance. With the number of applicants surging, getting a spot has been difficult.

The panda has been put on display for five 30-minute sessions daily between 9:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. The zoo currently accepts 80 groups of up to five people per session, or up to 400 visitors in total.

Judging that the animal is getting more accustomed to the crowds, the zoo decided to extend the viewing sessions between Jan. 23 and Jan. 31 until 2:15 p.m. They will be extended to 4:45 p.m. from February.

To avoid congestion, each visitor will get a look at the cub — along with her 12-year-old mother Shin Shin — for around two minutes. There are no limits for viewing Xiang Xiang’s father Ri Ri.

On Friday, Xiang Xiang turned 7 months old.