Zao fox village, Shiroishi, Miyagi, Japan
One hour drive from Sendai or 14~15 kms of drive from Shiroishi express way exit, Zao Fox Village is Japan’s largest fox-themed zoo. More than 100 foxes live free-range in a garden surrounded by nature, and you can watch foxes without a fence in between. In addition, there are a lot of small animals such as rabbits and goats. In recent years, as word-of-mouth spread, more and more foreign people have come to visit this unique attraction. In spring, a hug a baby fox experience is available, which is a world-exclusive to Zao Fox Village. All the foxes are checked for Echinococcus disease (a parasite common to foxes), so you can enjoy contacting with foxes safely.
Some people call Miyagi Zao Fox Village in Shiroishi, the fluffiest place on earth. Miyagi Zao Fox Village or Kitsune Mura is an 18,000 square feet enclosed area in a large-scale forest found on the outskirts of Shiroishi city. There are about 200 free-roaming foxes here who were saved from slaughter for the fur trade and to date, there are 6 types of them: the rare silver fox, arctic fox, Japanese red fox, cross fox, platinum fox, and platinum gold fox.
This place is not at all a village. It’s rather an animal-sanctuary-slash-zoo where foxes are brought up to be taken care of the rest of their lives, and that in order to continue breeding, feeding, and protecting them, the owners open the ‘village’ to the public. Visitors are free to roam inside and see them up close. However, touching the foxes is not encouraged because foxes may bite.
Foxes or ‘kitsune‘ are popular subjects in Japanese mythology and folklore as they are commonly depicted as intelligent beings who possess magical abilities and who can even shape-shift into a human form.
Due to these stories, foxes and humans back in ancient Japan actually lived close together which later on increased their supernatural significance. Kitsune/foxes were closely associated to Inari Okami, a Shinto kami or spirit of wealth + prosperity + rice, as its messengers. Because of this, some people make offerings to them as a deity in shrines because of their potential ‘power’.
Our trip to fox village was not at all a planned one. We didnt look into the details. We thought being very close to foxes and between a group of foxes will be a rare opportunity and an interesting experience. Place is almost 190 kms away from the place where we live and it took a total of 2 hours drive to reach shiroishi, Miyagi, Zao Fox village.
The place was not so crowded. Summer may not be the best season to visit because they shed their fur. キツネ村/kitsune mura is on top of a mountain. We reached around 14:00 and the facility is open until 17:00. But last entry is only until 16:00. In winter, facility will close 1 hour early; ie, 16:00.
At the entrance you will see all kinds of warnings about the possibility for fox bites and chances for fox attacks. This will make you think twice before entering especially when you are taking your children with you.
Entrance fee is 1000 Japanese yen per person. Once you pay and secure your tickets, you will get instructions about conduct inside the facility. And these instructions will make you think a third time before entering the facility.
Most alarming point and discouraging warning is that foxes may approach and try to attack smaller children. For this reason, though children are allowed to enter the facility, they will insist that each child need to be attended by an elder person. And if a fox is seen approaching the child, elder person should carry the child. And if the fox is still showing aggression, elder person is supposed to jump forward towards the fox to frighten the fox.
Any attempt to touch the fox will result in a bite.
Any belongings, especially the smaller items like purse, credit cards, once dropped between foxes, may not be able to retrieve. They will show you some samples at the entrance.
Before you enter the gates that lead you to the ‘fox village’ itself, there is an area just outside the reception where you will already see a few foxes. However, they are either in cages or in a collar leash. There are some younger foxes also in cages. Here, it seems that visitors are free to carry and pose with these younger foxes for ¥400 yen for a few minutes. You will just be required to wear a jacket that they provide (for protection) before holding the fox. But we did not have this opportunity because we were a little late. This is done on designated schedules and twice in a day.
Other than foxes, you can also see other animals here such as rabbits, ponies, and goats.
The moment we entered the fox inhabited area, we were welcomed with a very foul smell which later on we understood that, is coming from a nearby pig farm. Suddenly we were in the middle of a large group of foxes. Most of the foxes were very idle, resting or sleeping, especially due to the summer heat. Wife was carrying younger Jaelinora as a precaution and for a moment Nimmy put Jaelinora on ground to take some photos. From nowhere, suddenly a black fox approached Jaelinora and Nimmy suddenly carried Jaelinora in her hands again. Even then, the black fox was staying there, looking at Nimmy and Jaelinora. With this incident, we lost all the comfort and felt to go out of the facility as soon as possible. We quickly roamed around, very watchful and took some pictures. We do not recommend to take your children inside the facility. If at all, be always alert and look around to see if some fox is approaching you or your child.
We did not feel this completely enjoyable with children because of the high risk element. But as a "once in lifetime" experience, this is a great place to be in.
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