Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Tokyo exhibition pays tribute to beloved giant panda Xiang Xiang before return to China

A visitor to the exhibition at the Matsuzakaya Ueno store in Tokyo's Taito Ward enjoys photos of the giant panda on Feb.15, 2023. (Mainichi/Mei Nammo)

TOKYO -- An exhibition featuring hundreds of photos and a huge mosaic of the 5-year-old female giant panda Xiang Xiang is underway at a department store in Tokyo ahead of her return to China on Feb. 21.

    The exhibition at the Matsuzakaya Ueno store in Tokyo's Taito Ward features photos looking back on the growth of the giant panda, a star attraction at Ueno Zoological Gardens in the same ward.

    Mosaic art saying "We love you, Xiang Xiang!" is seen in Tokyo's Taito Ward on Feb. 15, 2022. (Mainichi/Mei Nammo)

    In line with the exhibition, a giant mosaic artwork, measuring about 18 meters in length and 4 meters in width adorns the store's exterior, and visitors took photos to commemorate the reluctant parting.

    Xiang Xiang was born in 2017 to giant pandas Ri Ri and Shin Shin, who were on loan from China. Under an agreement with China, if loaned pandas breed cubs abroad, China maintains ownership over them, meaning they have to be returned under the terms of the agreement. The cub was originally due to be returned at the end of 2020, but the loan was extended until this year.

    The exhibition displays 920 photos of Xiang Xiang taken by Takahiro Takauji between December 2017, soon after the giant panda went on display, and November last year. Takauji runs the "Mainichi Panda" blog featuring photos from his daily visits to the zoo. Visitors can see photos showing Xiang Xiang's various expressions, from when she hung around her mother Shin Shin as a cub to when she grew older and munched on bamboo grass with her belly exposed. The mosaic art was created with photos of Xiang Xiang taken by Takauji.

    Asuka Ishikawa, a 43-year-old resident of Tokyo's Ota Ward, said she became a big panda fan following Xiang Xiang's birth, and commented, "The balance of her face parts and the roundness of her body is good and it's really cute. It's sad that she's going back and I feel like crying, but I hope she will enjoy raising cubs in China."

    A representative of the department store commented, "We hope this will be an exhibition where many people can share their love of Xiang Xiang, and that they can enjoy the photos of Xiang Xiang to the fullest."

    The exhibition will run through Feb. 28.

    (Japanese original by Mei Nammo, Tokyo Bureau)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media