Panda watchers who went to the Ueno Zoo every day… and continued to photograph “1010 Days of Shanshan | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Panda watchers who went to the Ueno Zoo every day… and continued to photograph “1010 Days of Shanshan

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I’m not a keeper, but I watched her grow up…

My daughter is a year younger than Shanshan. I had a strong wish to give her a panda-like name, but my wife rejected it. But I was able to get away with using a repetitive name. I also wanted to put “Xiang” in the name Xiangxiang, but the stroke count was not good, so I gave up the idea.

The person who starts off with an outrageous story is Takahiro Koji, a photographer who is well known among panda enthusiasts. In August 2011, I happened to visit the Ueno Zoo. He bought an annual passport to the Ueno Zoo by chance and fell in love at first sight with Sing Sing, who looked like a big peach rolling down his back, at the panda house. Since then, he has been going to the Ueno Zoo almost every day except for holidays to take pictures of pandas for the past 12 years.

Why is Mr. Ko attracted to pandas so much? We asked him about his deep fascination with pandas, focusing on his memories of Shanshan over the past five years.

Mr. Gao applied for the job as “Sai Sai,” but was unsuccessful. I thought Shanshan was beautifully pronounced and the characters were nice. I thought it was perfect.” (February 14, 2007, photo by Takahiro Koji, from his book “Mainichi Panda no 1010 Nichi Shanshan Shashin Shisyu” (Seishun Shuppansha))

It was one month after the start of photography that the individual differences among the pandas became clear. Contrary to the expectations of those around us, the pilgrimage to Ueno went on and on.

Mr. Koji recalls that if the pandas were just cute, he probably would have just said, “They were cute. But the pandas’ movements and gestures had a strangely human quality to them.

He said, “I saw something in their loose behavior, such as sleeping in a very disheveled manner, that I shared with myself. I was attracted to the gap between the old man-like appearance and the baby-like gestures. I was also attracted to that gap.

At first, both the company and his wife thought, “He will probably get tired of it anyway. If they want to do it, they can do it,” but there was no sign that they would ever stop. Fortunately or unfortunately, the company had always allowed remote work before Corona, so he finally brought his computer to work at the Ueno Zoo as a daily routine.

At first I thought all pandas were the same, but after about a month of going to the zoo, I began to notice the differences in their faces. The shape and position of their ears, the shape and size of the black part that looks like a droopy eye, they all look different.

It was in the spring of the sixth year of her life that she received the happy news that Shin Shin was pregnant.

Every spring, there is always news about how the baby panda at Ueno will turn out this year. I had let my guard down and thought that this year would be no different, but then, well, there it was.”

March 27, 2006: Hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) shot with Shin-shin, the mother panda. When she was a baby, she looked like a pink cotton candy because Sing Sing had raised her by licking her so lovingly.

Shanshan, a “miraculously beautiful panda” who has the best of both parents, was born!

Shanshan was born on June 12, 2005, and was first shown to the public on December 19 of the same year. The first public viewing of Shanshan, who was born on June 12, 2005, was held on December 19 of the same year.

I thought I knew Shanshan from the zoo’s frequent showing of his videos, but when I saw him with my own eyes, I was thrilled to realize that such a cute little guy actually existed in this world.

It was like discovering a once-in-a-millennium idol. Even for Mr. Gao, who has no prejudice against any panda and does not favor any one over another, Shanshan’s charm was exceptional.

He said, “From a human’s point of view, Shan Shan is the one that I feel has everything in balance in terms of its appearance. His father, Li Li, is a handsome panda who is known as a “good-looking panda. His mother, Xinxin, is just adorable, and Shanshan is the best of both pandas. She has inherited her father’s mischievous and funny personality and her mother’s cuteness, and I think they are a condensation of various charms that attract people.

August 16, 2006︓Shanshan lounging in her room. She makes friends with a crow, kneecaps her mother, and so on. Did Shanshan’s tomboyishness, which gave birth to many famous scenes, come from her father?
October 27, 2006 (October 27, 2006) Shan Shan was mostly sleeping, as if it was a good day for a nap.
January 23, 2007 (January 23, 2007) Shan Shan sees and talks with a crow in the park.
March 6, 2007, active Shan Shan in the park

It doesn’t matter if they don’t recognize you. It doesn’t matter if they don’t recognize you, if they are part of the scenery. As long as we are in the same space.

Mr. Gao has also held many photo exhibitions. Among them, “Everyday Panda’s 920-day Shanshan Photo Exhibition” held at Matsuzakaya Ueno Store in February this year was very popular because 920 photos, carefully selected one a day, were arranged in chronological order, allowing visitors to see the growth of the pandas at a glance! A book version of the exhibition was also published.

The company and family, who were initially dismayed, now give their full support. Mr. Ko also relented (?). After the birth of his daughter, Mr. Gao has started to take occasional “bread days off” for his family.

However, he still has to endure queues of up to 240 minutes for a one-minute visit, rejoice in the growth of the child he missed each time Corona was closed temporarily, and when he had to let go of his parents, he said, “They are animals, and I don’t feel too sorry for them. When it was time to let go of the parents, I reflected to myself, “Don’t feel too sorry for them,” and repeated numerous struggles over the five years. One would think that if he visited Shanshan every day, Shanshan would recognize him as “the usual person,” but….

But I was wrong. I think people who don’t feed me are just scenery. There are too many people to remember, and pandas don’t have good eyesight, so I think they only feel that the scenery is swaying. I took a picture of myself moving toward Shanshan’s eye line to make it look like our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did.

This is the essence of free love. It’s a very healthy thing to do.

December 11, 2006: Shan Shan leaves Shin Shin and goes out on her own. She looks like she is saying, “Oh, Mr. Gao, konnichiwa! but in fact they are not looking at each other!

China is a study abroad destination, and his parents’ home is in Ueno. I was ready to go to Sichuan Province to see him!

And then came the day of return. Mr. Gao, along with many panda watchers, followed Shanshan from the zoo to Narita Airport to see off the plane to China.

I had watched her grow up before she was born, so I felt as if I was sending my own child to study abroad,” he said. The COVID-19 crisis was nothing short of painful, but because of it our return was postponed several times, and it was unfortunate that I was able to watch her grow up until she was five years old.”

As for his parents’ feelings, China is his study abroad destination, and his parents’ home is only in Ueno. Shanshan is currently studying at a facility in Sichuan Province, but they will of course go to see her once they decide where to open her to the public.

When Li Li and Xin Xin came to Japan, there was nothing but gloomy news every day after the earthquake. But the arrival of the pandas brightened everyone’s day. Shanshan also lifted our depressed spirits with her visit to Corona. Pandas have a great power to brighten the world. I would like to keep coming to Ueno to watch over the pandas.”

Shanshan is also popular in China. Many comments were received before the opening to the public (December 25, 2009).

The book was published in response to requests from customers who saw the photo exhibition at Matsuzakaya Ueno! The book, “Mainichi Panda no 1010 Nichi Shanshan Shashin Shashin” (Seishun Shuppansha), will be released on June 12.

Takahiro Koji is a photographer and graphic designer who photographs pandas at the Ueno Zoo every day. His blog, “Pandas Everyday,” which he started in 2011, has been a hit with the media, including television, newspapers, and magazines. His blog is updated every day. He has published many books, including “Aiueo Panda” (Seishun Shuppansha), “Everyday Shanshan 2017-2021” (KADOKAWA), and “I LOVE Shanshan: Preservation Edition Photo Book” (MDDN Corporation).

For Takahiro Koji’s blog, “Pandas Every Day,” click here.

June 9th, 2010 (June 9th, 2010) Finally, I was able to take a photo of Shanshan with a peach butt.
October 28, 2010︓The 50th anniversary of the arrival of the giant panda. Shanshan taking a nap in her room.
  • Interview and text Ide Chimasa PHOTO From "Mainichi Panda no 1010 Nichi Shanshan Shashin Shashin" (written by Takahiro Koji, published by Seishun Shuppansha)

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