Visiting Zao Fox Village in Miyagi, Japan

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.

Getting There/Expense

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Lavender Fields Forever, Alpacas, and the Blue Pond!

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Lavender Fields Forever taken at Farm Tomita in Furano, Japan.

There’s nothing quite like backpacking through flower farms and eating lavender ice cream in the countryside of Japan.  During this time of year (late June – August), Hokkaido’s flowers are in full bloom and many people flock to Furano and Biei to enjoy the view.  There are a number of farms you can visit by taking the Lilac Express from Sapporo Station, and each of them have unique attractions and food!

I first started at Farm Tomita which is just walking distance from Lavender Farm Station (what a cute name)!  This is one of the most famous farms due to its large variety of flora, melon farm, and delicious lavender-flavored food.  The fields here are very large and you can easily spend over an hour here.  I highly recommend trying the tiny slices of lavender cheesecake and hiking to the top of the hill for a unforgettable view.  Here is a map of other lavender farms that you can visit in the area.

Afterwards I decided to take the express train from Lavender Farm Station to Biei Station and take a sightseeing bus to see the Blue Pond.  This miraculous pond was formed by aluminum and sulfur mixing in with the water during a landslide.  Groundwater washing in from the nearby Shirahige Falls and Shirogane Hot Spring also played a role in helping it obtain its color.  What makes it amazing is that trees are still growing from the bottom of it.  The color of the pond slightly changes over the course of the year and it has become an extremely popular tourist attraction.  It was a cloudy summer day when I arrived, so I was able to capture a wonderful blue hill:

Unbeknownst to me, the sightseeing bus next stopped at a flower farm called Shikisai-no-oka, where you can rent vehicles to ride through the fields and also see alpacas!  I was absolutely exhausted from backpacking, so I spent the majority of my time with the alpacas.  They were fluffy and adorable–definitely a sight for sore eyes!

Overall, Furano and Biei make for a wonderful day trip in Hokkaido!  They are fairly secluded areas in a valley of mountains so this trip was the perfect escape from the city.  These areas are quite crowded during the summer seasons by tourists who come to see the flowers, so be sure to come early and “be careful about saliva”.