TOKYO - Around 1,200 people queued up on Thursday at a Tokyo zoo to see giant panda cub Xiang Xiang and mother Shin Shin, as display rules were changed to a first-come-first-served basis from pre-selected visitors.
According to the Ueno Zoological Gardens, people started to line up from around 3 a.m. Thursday until 9:30 a.m., the time numbered tickets are distributed to visitors wishing to see the pandas.
The display time for the animals has been expanded by two and a half hours until 4:45 p.m. from 9:45 a.m., with up to 9,500 visitors per day allowed.
In the previous public display format, which started on Dec. 19, the zoo limited the number of visitors to see the cub, born in June, and its mother, to about 2,000 lottery winners per day.
An outside playground area for the pandas was also made public for the first time on Thursday, allowing visitors to watch Xiang Xiang actively climb trees and logs.
Yutaka Shimizu, a 15-year-old junior high school student, who visited the zoo with his friend said, "My friend queued up from 4:30 a.m. The cub played innocently with a log and was so cute."
Susumu Nakamura, 29, and his wife, Mana, 30, from Yamato in Kanagawa Prefecture, came to the zoo with their 1-year-old son. After losing lotteries to see the cub a number of times, they stayed overnight at a nearby hotel.
Mana said that while her son Rikuto appeared happy to see Xiang Xiang, "Perhaps I was more excited."
Xiang Xiang has been hugely popular with the public, attracting some 59,000 visitors by Jan. 31. As of Jan. 25, Xiang Xiang, born on June 12, weighed 16.4 kilograms, the zoo said.