• Kyodo

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Ueno Zoological Gardens, one of Tokyo’s major sightseeing spots, reopened Tuesday following nearly four months of shutdown due to the novel coronavirus.

The zoo will implement measures to reduce the risks of infection for the time being, including shortening its opening hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and limiting the number of visitors to 4,000 a day.

Visitors are also required to reserve in advance for a designated 15-minute time slot to enter the zoo, with it allowing in up to 200 people every 15 minutes.

When the gates opened Tuesday, some fans rushed to see the giant panda cub Xiang Xiang, holding panda goods in their hands.

“I was waiting for this moment to meet her again,” said Naoko Kawazoe, 53, who was the first to arrive at the panda enclosure. The business owner from the capital’s Nerima Ward said she had been coming to the zoo almost every day to see the cub until the facility closed on Feb. 29.

“Xiang Xiang looked toward me with a curious look, and I felt as though she had greeted me when she came near me,” Kawazoe said.

Xiang Xiang, who turned 3 earlier this month, spent much of the morning eating bamboo on a hammock and bathing in water.

During the closure, Ueno Zoological Gardens uploaded videos of the popular cub on its website.

China owns Xiang Xiang and her parents, who were sent to Japan in 2011 under a 10-year lease agreement.

The panda cub was originally scheduled to return to China last year on her second birthday, but the date was pushed back to the end of 2020.

The specific day when Xiang Xiang will return to China is still unknown as negotiations have stalled due to the virus, a zoo official said.

Visitors gather in front of the enclosure for Xiang Xiang the giant panda cub at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO
Visitors gather in front of the enclosure for Xiang Xiang the giant panda cub at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

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