Fans waited up to four hours on Friday at Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens to catch a glimpse of a popular female giant panda, with only a month left before she is sent to China.

Xiang Xiang will enter a quarantine period from Saturday and visits will only be allowed through a pre-selected lottery. Up to 2,600 visitors will be able to see the 5-year-old each day until Feb. 19.

Many people, bundled in warm clothing, lined up outside the zoo's main entrance from early morning before it opened.

Takasato Takashima, 27, who lives in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, was visiting the zoo for the second day in a row. "I want to thank her for growing up this big," he said.

Kikue Hisatsune, a 74-year-old resident of Tokyo's Katsushika Ward, said she was happy to see the cute panda walking around. "I will apply for the lottery as often as possible so I can keep her in my memory."

Xiang Xiang was born in June 2017 at the zoo to a pair on loan from China, making her a possession of China. She was supposed to leave for China when she turned 2, but the loan was extended due to her popularity and later because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her father Ri Ri and mother Shin Shin came to the zoo from China in February 2011. Two more cubs, Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei, were born to them in June 2021.