Visitors to Shiroishi, Japan, a small city in the Miyagi mountains, can make a scenic afternoon detour to the nearby village of Zao Kitsune Mura, which is inhabited mainly by…foxes. A LOT of foxes.
The Zao Fox Village, as it’s called in English,was founded in 1990 and is a sanctuary that houses more than 100 foxes, with multiple breeds – the Japanese red fox, black fox, platinum fox and arctic fox, among others – represented. Foxes are considered very important in traditional Japanese mythology and folklore, particularly as mischievous messenger spirits for the Shinto deity Inari Okami, and visiting the fox village is a unique (and very, very cute) way to learn more about vulpine cultural significance.
The largest part of the sanctuary is an open area where foxes are mainly left to their own devices to roam, play, sleep and beg visitors for treats. Adorably, the main enclosure also features tiny fox houses, and even a miniature Shinto shrine with torii gates.
Because they are generally friendly and show no fear of humans, tourists are encouraged to feed and interact with the foxes – but keep your paws (ha) to yourself, because as harmless as they look, the foxes are still wild animals and they do bite! Luckily, the Fox Village also has a separate petting zoo section, so feel free to go wild patting the bunnies, baby goats and horses.
Admission to this slice of heaven on earth is only $10AUD for adults, and free for elementary-aged kids (with fox treats available for $1), as if you needed another reason to visit Japan.
Sophia Softky is an armchair philosopher and wayward American trying to make her way in Melbourne. Sometimes she writes things, and sometimes they get published. She is a millenial and therefore lives inside of the Internet.