Steeped in Japanese folklore, Miyagi Zao Fox Village is a sanctuary for playful wild foxes
By Nicole-Marie Ng
Foxes have played a key role in Japanese folklore for thousands of years. Known as kitsune, these reddish-brown balls of fur are said to be intelligent and magical creatures. The kitsune of legend can live for hundreds of years, growing up to nine tails. Each tail represents the fox’s age and power, blessing them with the ability to shapeshift into human form as and when they please.
Experience this part of Japanese culture by visiting the Miyagi Zao Fox Village. While you won’t see any nine tailed foxes, the small village is home to more than 100 wild foxes of varying breeds.
Known as kitsune, foxes are viewed as intelligent, magical creatures in Japanese folklore. (Photo: Pixabay)
Frolic among foxes
The Miyagi Zao Fox Village is a family-run fox sanctuary that charges visitors ¥1,000 ($13.50) per entry. This fee goes towards the food and care of the foxes should they need medical attention.
When you first step into the scenic fox village, you’ll be greeted with a miniature petting zoo with tame rabbits, goats, foxes and horses to take photos with. These are the only foxes that you’ll be able to touch as once you move into the main sanctuary, the foxes are wild and roam freely.
Although most of the instructions given by staff are in Japanese, you can simply follow the wooden path to the feeding area. Here, you’ll be able to toss food from a safe distance as the foxes tend to get aggressive and greedy when they’re being fed.
There are also tons of photo opportunities with the foxes to be had. Catch them playing in the snow or snoozing under the bright vermillion Tori gate. The breathtaking Miyagi Zao Mountains looming in the background add an element of mystical wonder to the experience.
Most of the foxes are wild and roam the ground freely. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Practical travel tips
While the cute and cuddly foxes appear clean in photographs, they are still undomesticated animals with an unpredictable temperament and a distinctive scent. You might also find stray fox droppings along your path, so pack along a set of old clothes and hiking boots to change out of after your visit, unless you don’t mind smelling the rest of the day.
The best time to visit would be in winter for picturesque scenes of foxes playing in the snow. You might just be able to catch the foxes burying their head in the snow, then emerging covered in fine white powder and looking utterly contented.
A short day trip from Tokyo
Situated in Shiroishi, the fox village is a short train ride away from Tokyo. Take the shinkansen from Tokyo station to Shiroishizao; the entire journey should take 109 minutes.
Once you arrive at Shiroishizao, you’ll need to take a taxi or drive to the fox village. The taxi ride is roughly about half an hour and costs about ¥4,000 ($54).
After arriving, simply follow the signs and pay for entry into the village to enjoy your time with the friendly foxes.
Kawarago-11-3 Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture 989-0733, Tel: 0224-24-8812.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 156, July 8 – July 21, 2016, with the headline ‘The village where foxes roam free’.