A Japanese who takes panda photos for nearly 12 years

2023-02-21 11:06:28Xinhua Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
Takahiro Takauji, the blogger of

Takahiro Takauji, the blogger of "Mainichi Panda," or Panda Every Day, visits Tokyo's Ueno Zoological Gardens to see Xiang Xiang on Feb. 19, 2023, the final day for public viewing for the beloved five-year-old female giant panda before her return to China. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)

It was still cold for an early spring day in Tokyo. Takahiro Takauji, the blogger of "Mainichi Panda," or Panda Every Day, showed up on a snowy morning at the entrance of Ueno Zoo as usual.

Takauji, also known as "Mr. Panda" for his craze for the animal, launched in September 2011 the website of "Mainichi Panda," which displays photographs he takes of giant pandas in Ueno Zoo.

For nearly 12 years, the 44-year-old website designer has been visiting the park near-daily to take panda photos.

The man would take a one-hour subway ride from his home in Saitama city to Ueno Zoo, which opens at 9:30 a.m. local time. "I usually get in line at the zoo entrance two hours early. I would take care of my work for the day while waiting so that I can focus on photographing the pandas once the zoo opens," Takauji told Xinhua.

The heavy snow did not seem to affect the panda lover's good mood at all. "Today's shoot is well worth the wait, because giant pandas love snow, and you might see them frolicking in the snow on such a day," said Takauji, adding that there will be much fewer visitors when the weather is bad.

As visitors followed the staff at the zoo into the panda house where the mother panda Shin Shin and her twin cubs dwell, Takauji began clicking away madly, and the two-minute viewing slot passed in a flash.

There was no queue for the outdoor exhibit of the father of the twins, or the male panda Ri Ri, who was either sitting and nibbling bamboo sticks or climbing up and down in the snow. Takauji weaved through the crowd to find the perfect shooting spot after wrapping his expensive filming equipment with a scarf to prevent it from getting wet.

To get more shots of the pandas, a typical Ueno Zoo trip for Takauji means joining the queue three or four times outside the house of Shin Shin and her babies, waiting for at least 40 minutes each time.

The man recalled a day when he spent over seven hours waiting in biting coldness to photograph the beloved giant panda Xiang Xiang, which will be returning to China on Tuesday.

"It was a winter morning, I started queuing at 5 a.m. and then waited outside the panda house for three hours after the zoo opened," he said.

In the eyes of "Mr. Panda," Xiang Xiang was worth the wait although the visit lasted only two or three minutes. "I feel happy as long as I get to look at the pandas."

When Takauji returns home after his photo shoot for pandas, he would display about 200 pictures on the blog after sifting through the large number of photos he had taken on that day.

Takauji's first connection to giant pandas began in 2011 when the two Chinese pandas Ri Ri and Shin Shin arrived in Tokyo in February, ending the nearly three-year absence of giant pandas in Ueno Zoo. One day in August he decided to go see the pair, and this casual decision changed his life.

As of Feb. 20 this year, Takauji has photographed giant pandas for 3,139 days over a period of nearly 12 years. Except for the 340-day closure of the zoo due to COVID-19 and his daughter's birthdays, he has been seen at Ueno Zoo every day.

"Through photographing giant pandas, I have made many friends and become healthier. It is also because of the pandas that I have learned more about China," he told Xinhua.

For Takauji, Xiang Xiang is a daughter-like figure as the panda shares the same age with his daughter. He has published a large number of books, photo albums, postcards, and calendars featuring the famous giant panda Xiang Xiang, and most of the remuneration has been donated to related funds for the protection of giant pandas at Ueno Zoo.

Currently, under Takauji's cooperation with a department store near Ueno, a photo exhibit on Xiang Xiang is being held in the shopping mall.

"Xiang Xiang has given us a lot of happiness here in Japan. I want to thank her and hope she can serve as a symbol of peace and a link between Japan and China," said Takauji.

Takauji said that as long as there are giant pandas at Ueno Zoo, he will continue to take pictures of them and share the joy with more people. "I will definitely go to China to see Xiang Xiang in the future," he added.


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