Who doesn’t love foxes? Foxes are famous in Japanese folklore which represent them as wise magical beings whose powers increase as they age, but my main reason for being captivated by these creatures is that they are just so fluffy and adorable! For those who would want to be surrounded by these cute canines, I have the perfect place for you: The Zao Fox Village located in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. Zao Fox Village is a free-range forest containing more than 100 foxes and more than 6 different species of foxes, and could possibly well be the cutest place on Earth as all the foxes seem to be smiling even when they are asleep!
The fox village can be reached in a bus ride from Shiroishizao station, around 2 hours from Tokyo, but the bus doesn’t run daily: It only runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can also take the bus from Shiroishi station, which is nearer to the village itself. The bus ride takes around 40-60 minutes. I find that Shiroishizao Station is the more convenient station to take as you don’t need to switch trains from Tokyo.
Since we arrived on a Wednesday, the bus wasn’t running- so another way is to take a taxi. The taxi ride cost us around Y3000 and 20-30 minutes to get there from Shiroishizao station, and in the middle of the way, the scenery changed from a chilly autumn to a freezing winter as the snow has started to fall early in the mountainside. Some people call themselves lucky to catch the first few days of snow, but I found myself unlucky as I was completely underdressed for this weather.
Upon arriving at the fox village, the staff will hand you a pamphlet explaining the dos and don’ts before heading inside.
The entrance only costs Y1,000 for adults, and free for children under 3 years old, which gives you as much time as you want to spend inside this fox haven. You can also buy some food for the foxes, goats, and rabbits (yes, there’s a rabbit and goat petting area, but we didn’t get to see it because we were too distracted by the foxes).
The moment we opened the bars of the door to this preserve, we were met with a scenery full of foxes, but our favorite has to be this black one because he seems to be quite timid and friendly. Also, from what we noticed, he seems to be the only black fox in the sea of orange foxes.
You don’t actually need too much time to go around the fox preserve: We were able to take a ton of photos and walk around the whole place in around 1 hour. Check out our shots below!
They also have a feeding area where you drop food to the foxes from an elevated area. It was quite funny watching the foxes swarm to the food in a giant ring of fur.
I am aware that some online reviews say that the foxes are maltreated in the preserve, showing photos of caged and ill foxes. However, upon talking with the staff, the caged foxes are actually just young foxes that they are raising up by hand because if they left them with the bigger foxes, they usually attack it. And as for the photos of the ill foxes, they actually put them in a separate area so that they will not infect the whole preserve, but you can see that they are all taken care of individually. From what I can see, there was no maltreatment going on and the foxes all look happy and content since the area is actually quite large and they are all free to roam around.
I was already beginning to get signs of frostbite on my hands because I was still dressed for autumn and not winter, so I headed inside to their shop which sells all things fox.
The staff were very nice as one of the caretakers offered to lend me his white jacket so I can explore more of the preserve instead of spending it cooped up in the store while my companions are having fun with the foxes outside. I guess he noticed how I was shivering beside the heater. That’s Japanese hospitality for you!
It was time to leave soon, but we wanted to pet one of the foxes in the “Dako-dako” activity they had. Unfortunately, it was still a few hours until they let visitors do the activity, but thanks to my persuasion skills and the consideration of the staff, they let us do it ahead of time. How nice! Before you do the activity, you have to wear the green jacket that all the staff are wearing. They said it helps the fox to stay relaxed because it’s familiar to them. After putting it on, you can now start hugging/petting the fox!
He was so warm and soft, I never wanted to let go of him. Best experience ever!
We had to make our way back to Sendai for our next itinerary. It should be noted that there’s hardly any taxis waiting outside to take you back. You have to inform the staff that you need a taxi and you will have to wait 15-20 minutes before they get there. So if you’re in a rush, you have to do this in advance!