I guess many MのT readers are also subscribed to Itai News, but this pile-on is too beautiful to go unnoticed. Let me break it down:
- Ueno Zoo’s last panda, Ling Ling, dies.
- Beloved Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintarō says “It’s not like it’s a sacred artifact or anything, does it really matter whether we have a panda or not?” (御神体じゃないんだから、いてもいなくてもいいんじゃないの) and “Look, living things die. That has to include pandas, right? The world’s getting smaller, so if you want to see one go to where they are and take a look.” (生きてるものは死ぬんだから。パンダだって死ぬだろうし。世界は狭くなったんだから、見たけりゃいるとこ行って見てきたらいい)
- Panda merchandisers outraged: “Why would [he] say such a thing when everyone loved that panda so much?” asks a woman working at Sakuragi-tei, which sells “panda-yaki”. (Her words are described as a “KY [kūki yome] outburst”. Work it, Yomiuri!) Kono Shinji, “panda sable” vendor, warns that the governor is ignoring the “national sentiment” (国民感情).
- 2ch posters outraged at the outrage: “Why should we have to keep a panda just so these stores can stay in business?” “Who are you to decide what the national sentiment is?” I knew those 2channelers were contrary, but damn. They don’t even like adorable, cuddly pandas!
- Replenishing the zoo’s panda supply would mean renting one from China, a prospect at which, according to the Yomiuri, the phones at Ueno Zoo are ringing off the hook: “Panda rental is too expensive” (Kobe Zoo is apparently paying ¥100,000,000 per year for their pandas, and not earning it back), “I don’t want to rent a panda from China [because they are oppressing Tibet]“, etc. I note in passing that no proof, names, or hard figures on call volume are offered for this part of the story.
Ueno Zoo must know that they ain’t ever gonna recapture the magic of the 1986 birth of Tong Tong. The Bubble is over, the kids are mopey and don’t go on healthy, sweater-wearing dates to the zoo any more… but pandas are Ueno Zoo’s thing. What else are they gonna do?