Pandas Popular with People of All Ages in Japan, 50 Years On

Society

Tokyo, Oct. 27 (Jiji Press)--Giant pandas at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo still boast strong popularity among people of all ages in Japan 50 years after the arrival of the first pandas in the country.

Shortly after then Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai signed a Japan-China joint communique on Sept. 19, 1972, an announcement was made that the Chinese side would send two giant pandas to celebrate the normalization of bilateral ties.

While the zoo in the Japanese capital's Taito Ward hastily started preparations to receive the pandas, only one member of the zoo's staff had seen the animal before.

Workers at the zoo "didn't even know what kind of animal a giant panda was, let alone how to take care of it," Naoya Ohashi, 48, of the zoo said. "They must've been worried."

Former Ueno Zoo keeper Yoshiaki Sagawa, 75, took care of nine giant pandas at the zoo over the course of 23 years from 1973.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press