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Tokyo's Ueno zoo reopens after 4-month coronavirus closure

This photo taken June 23, 2020, shows giant panda Xiang Xiang at Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo. The zoo reopened the same day after closing for about four months due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Ueno Zoological Gardens, one of Tokyo's major sightseeing spots, reopened Tuesday following nearly four months of shutdown due to the coronavirus.

The zoo will implement measures to lessen 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, as it lets 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 zoo 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.

The Ueno Zoological Gardens had been uploading videos of the popular cub on its website while it was shut.

China has ownership of Xiang Xiang as well as 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.

Xiang Xiang's specific day of return to China is still unknown as negotiations between the zoo and China have stalled due to the coronavirus, an official of the zoo said.

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