This December, one of Tokyo’s most popular zoos, Ueno Zoo, will bid farewell to one of its star attractions: Xiang Xiang the giant panda. The female giant panda is currently loaned to the Tokyo zoo by the Chinese government, and will be returning to China at the end of December 2020.

Due to the low number of pandas that are still alive today, they are considered an endangered species and there are special rules in place for their conservation. Countries can borrow pandas from China, but these rules mean that rare animals like pandas and their cubs cannot be legally traded.

Xiang Xiang was born at Ueno Zoo and turned three years old this year. According to a report by The Mainichi, she was originally supposed to be sent back to China once she turned 2 years old, however, because of her popularity, the Tokyo government negotiated her stay to last until the end of this year.

In preparation for her upcoming departure, a department store located in Ueno is holding a “thank you” celebration for Xiang Xiang through panda-themed merchandise and food items.

The food items include a strawberry and sour cream cake with the cream depicting panda head shapes, two forms of chirashizushi (sushi rice in a bowl sprinkled with ingredients) with fish and eggs forming a panda face, and colorful panda sweet buns.

The panda-themed merchandise, on the other hand, includes a commemorative medallion with an image of Xiang Xiang, and the inscription “Thank you, Xiang Xiang” written in Japanese. Owing to its material being pure gold, the medallion is priced at a whopping 650,000 yen.

The food and merchandise is currently being sold at the Ueno branch of Matsuzakaya department store. Their “thank you” celebration also includes a photo exhibition featuring photos of Xiang Xiang, and the display of a giant balloon featuring the giant panda’s face that’ll take place on December 23 to 25, 2020.

You can find more details in Japanese through the department store’s website.

By - Jen Laforteza.