Pandas at Ueno Zoo

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    After three years of panda-lessness, Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo is finally going to get some Giant Pandas from China:

    Panda flags lined streets near the capital’s Ueno Zoo, which is to become the home of the pair of five-year-old giant pandas for the next decade, while television channels ran breathless coverage about the furry VIPs.
    The pair, a male named Bili and female named Xiannu, left their sanctuary in China’s Sichuan province on Monday headed for Shanghai, from where they were to fly to Tokyo on an All Nippon Airlines jet painted white with black spots.
    One broadcaster, in a report headlined the “Pandas are coming to Ueno!”, revealed titbits about the fluffy creatures, including that the male is shy and likes to do things at his own pace, while Xiannu is “friendly”.

    A special report from “Bankisha” showing the pandas being prepped for transport to Japan:

    The pandas are not a friendship gift from China. The Ueno Zoo will have to pay China almost a million dollars a year to “lease” the animals. However, the news media and people like Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara are still saying that the pandas could help improve Sino-Japanese relations:

    “I hope the pandas will become popular and many Japanese people get to see them. In such a way, I expect Japanese people’s impression on China will improve,” the minister said.

    Although Maehara said lease charges are relatively high, Tokyo will make various efforts to repair its ties with Beijing.

    The giant pandas named Bili and Xiannu will arrive at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo on Monday. The Tokyo metropolitan government will pay $950,000 (around 90 million yen) each year to China in lease charges.

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