• Kyodo

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Around 1,200 people lined up on Thursday morning at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo to see giant panda cub Xiang Xiang and mother Shin Shin, as a first-come, first-served system for viewing the animals kicked off.

According to the zoo, the line began to form at around 3 a.m. Numbered tickets were distributed at 9:30 a.m.

The display period, expanded by 2½ hours, runs from 9:45 a.m. until 4:45 p.m., with up to 9,500 daily visitors allowed.

Under the old system, which started on Dec. 19, the zoo limited the number of visitors to see the cub — which was born in June — and its mother to about 2,000 lottery winners per day.

An outdoor play area for the pandas was also made public for the first time on Thursday, allowing visitors to watch Xiang Xiang climb trees and logs.

“My friend lined up from 4:30 a.m,” said Yutaka Shimizu, a 15-year-old junior high school student. “The cub played … with a log and was so cute.”

Susumu Nakamura, 29, and his 30-year-old wife, Mana, came to the zoo with their 1-year-old son from Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture. After failing to win lotteries to see the cub a number of times, they stayed overnight at a nearby hotel to take advantage of the new system.

The mother said that while her son Rikuto appeared happy to see Xiang Xiang, “Perhaps I was more excited.”

Xiang Xiang has been hugely popular with the public, attracting some 59,000 visitors by Jan. 31.

As of Jan. 25, Xiang Xiang, born on June 12, weighed 16.4 kilograms, the zoo said.

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