Cities in Japan, from Kansai to northern Tohoku, are vying to host at their zoos a giant panda to be loaned from China amid improving relations between the two nations.

A broad agreement for the panda lease was reached by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last October. It was the first visit by a sitting prime minister in nearly seven years, not including multilateral summits.

To China, the ever-popular pandas are a big part of its soft-power diplomacy. For Japanese cities and their zoos, hosting a panda would provide an image and economic boost, and attract adoring crowds.