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AP PHOTOS: Tokyo baby panda melts hearts of fans in debut

December 19, 2017

Female giant panda cub Xiang Xiang eats bamboo during a press preview at the Ueno Zoological gardens in Tokyo, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. A baby panda made a special appearance Monday before Tokyo's governor, a group of local schoolchildren and the media one day ahead of its official public debut. Xiang Xiang, a 6-month-old female giant panda, will debut Tuesday in a limited public viewing for avid fans who obtained tickets through a highly competitive lottery process.(Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo’s new baby panda debuted formally Tuesday, immediately melting the hearts of hundreds of lucky fans who managed to obtain zoo tickets, many wearing panda-themed clothes.

Xiang Xiang, which means fragrance in Chinese, was born in June at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo to its resident panda. The zoo and its neighborhood have celebrated the female panda’s healthy growth, especially after the death of a days-old baby five years ago.

“Kawaii (cute)!” screamed many visitors, their voices filling the panda house during the 2 ½ hour viewing session, as Xiang Xiang crawled on the ground, followed its mother Shin Shin, climbed a tree and played with bamboo branches. The visitors held up smartphones trying to capture every antic of the slow-moving baby panda during their less than 10 minutes of viewing time.

Many visitors decorated themselves or their children with panda motifs on hats, scarves and even shoes and jackets, or wore black-and-white jackets. In and outside the zoo, panda goods of all kinds were on sale, including stuffed panda dolls, cookies, sweet buns and bread. Some shopkeepers wore panda costumes.

Only 2,000 people were allowed into the panda house, with tickets distributed through a lottery. Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang’s public appearances will be limited for the time being to minimize the stress.

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