Ever since Kangkang and Ranran were unveiled at Ueno Zoo in 1972 after the normalization of bilateral Sino-Japanese relations, famously resulting in a kilometer-long line and an unprecedented media frenzy, Japan has had a love affair with pandas which continues to the present day.

And what's not to love. Whether it's a little panda adorably clinging to a keeper's leg, or giving zookeepers a good workout with their boisterous play, Japanese people can't seem to get enough of them.

However, there was nothing small and adorable about the panda witnessed one windy afternoon in Saga prefecture last week. Twitter user @sportskids2010, a sports and outdoor activity enthusiast and fan of Kanako Momota of idol group Momoiro Clover Z, took out his camera and zoomed in on what he saw:

source: @sportskids2010

There it was, a giant giant panda rampaging through the Japanese countryside, poised to pounce on a building below...

---"A panda is destroying the city in Saga!!"

People could also be seen apparently fleeing the scene of the panda's rampage....

...well, not exactly fleeing...

...Wait a second. What's Darth Vader and Yoda doing here too?

It turns out that this was the scene of the Saga International Balloon Fiesta, an annual tradition in Saga since 1980. What seemed to be a monster on the rampage was only a hot air balloon. In fact, Saga, with its expanses of flat, even terrain, is one of the best locations in Japan for hot air balloon enthusiasts.

Ballooning has become an important cultural asset for the region. Not only is there a high concentration of balloon enthusiasts, the region has even incorporated ballooning into their schools, with local Hokuryo Senior High School's Ballooning Club one of only two high schools in the nation to have such a club.

Here's their balloon (left) together with that of Kamishihoro High School in Hokkaido (right), the only other high school to have a ballooning club:

By - grape Japan editorial staff.