Since I recently wrote about my Ghibli Adventures in Yamagata, I figured I’d recount my tale of visiting Zao Fox Village (also called Kitsune Mura) in the neighboring Miyagi Prefecture in 2017. This is the largest outdoor fox sanctuary in Japan that is home to over 100 friendly foxes. Additionally, Zao Fox Village is currently the only place in Japan where you can have the unique experience of holding a baby fox. Though it’s been over 3 years since I first visited this place, I’ll never forget my time here! It was quite the long journey from Tokyo, but was definitely worth it.
Address: Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture 989-0733, Japan
From Ueno Station, you can take the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen Yamabiko to Shiroishi-Zao Station for 10130 yen, then take a taxi for around 4000 yen or Castle Kun shuttle bus (that runs on Tuesdays and Fridays) for 200 yen to reach the village. This combined method of transportation takes about 2 hours total.
The entrance fee is 1000 yen, fox feed is 100 yen, and holding a baby fox cost 400 yen. The cost of getting here from Tokyo is a bit expensive, but the overall cost of the zoo is pretty affordable.
The Fox Experience
The system here is pretty easy to understand. You pay the entrance fee and are given specific instructions on how to safely interact with the foxes, then you are free to wander through their open-air village! They are quite entertaining to watch and you may even have the chance to see the rare silver fox roaming around. If you are afraid to get up close, there are several viewing platforms that you can stand at and observe them. Though some foxes enjoy sleeping through the day, they usually become most active when you offer them treats! The baby foxes are available for visitors to hold under supervision several times per day. Be sure to arrive before 4pm if you want to partake in this activity.
Here is a video I captured when one of the staff came out to feed them. As you can see, they show a lot of positive energy. This is even better seeing in person!
Animal Abuse Dispute
There are several articles and documentaries that claim Zao Fox Village is cruel for encasing animals in small spaces. While some of the cages used to transport the animals are small, I would argue that the sanctuary as a whole is quite wide and gives the animals enough room to relax and go about their usual business compared to usual zoos. As I personally observed the foxes here, I noticed they had enough space to exercise and seemed to be in good health. Though exposure to new people can make animals anxious, these foxes can fortunately retreat to their own plots of land away from visitors if they get tired.
Though this trip was quite the expense at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed my time seeing all of the foxes up close—especially since I got the chance to hold one! This was my first time seeing a Japanese silver fox as well. If you are interested in seeing a lesser-known fox village in Japan, please check out Kitakitsune Farm in Hokkaido! I have yet to visit, but it is definitely on my bucket list.