So, this little excursion of mine wouldn’t have been possible without Kestrel, who found the video of the Fox Village on YouTube and informed me about this place…because I had no idea. Fox sanctuary in Japan? A place where you can walk with the foxes, feed the foxes, and pet a fox? Yeah, I was blissfully ignorant of this potential for cuteness overload.
And what a missed opportunity that would have been. After all, who could resist these face?
Or this one, for that matter?
In fact, there’s lots and lots of cute foxes for you to “squee!” over at the Fox Village. And squee we did.
But I suppose I should start at the beginning.
The Fox Village perhaps most well-known, and the one I went to, is located in Shiroishi, Miyagi about 2-3 hours from Tokyo. It is quite a trek, and the excursion took the whole day, mostly in traveling. However, I maintain it was worth it and I recommend going to the Fox Village at least once if you’re able to.
Luckily, I was able to go with friends, all equally ready to see some foxes and liquefy into a puddle of goo from the cuteness.
Once you get to the town, there’s another challenge: the bus has a very limited schedule. It only runs Tuesdays. We went on a Thursday. Hmm. So, the only way to the Fox Village besides car is by taxi. Be ready to pay about 2500 yen in taxi fees, which is one minor reason having friends along was so nice.
When we arrived at The Fox Village, what greeted us was an entrance decorated in…not foxes. It was a gorilla, actually. A really big gorilla. Why? We wondered. But, maybe we should have asked why not?
Admission is 1000 yen for adults.
We went inside where a nice lady informed us of the rules in Japanese, and provided us with an English print-out. The Fox Village says they are a fox shelter. Apparently, foxes are often hunted in Japan, especially in farm areas. Due to a lush mythology where foxes are tricksters, troublemakers, and sometimes killers, superstitious folk don’t like to see them around. The Fox Village provides a place for the foxes to roam around without having to worry about being harmed.
But, all the foxes in the main areas are not tamed, so Rule #1 was don’t pet the foxes. The nice lady told us multiple times that petting the foxes could result in getting bitten. Another rule was also not to look the fox directly in the eyes for a prolonged amount of time. For a couple yen extra, you could buy a small baggie of food pellets with which to feed the foxes, but you could only feed them in the Feeding Area. You know, so the foxes don’t get smart to the fact all these humans have food and mob them as they walk around.
Informed, with two baggies of food pellets apiece, we meandered into the main compound of the Fox Village.
The best time to go to the Fox Village is definitely winter, when there’s some snow on the ground. It would make everything picturesque and really show off the fur on the foxes. During the late winter, after the snows melt, the ground just looks muddy. But hey, we were there for the foxes and they did not disappoint.
As we walked around, we had one fox follow us for a good five or ten minutes. When we stopped, it would stop, tilt it’s head, and watch us. Probably trying to decide if we would provide nourishment. It really liked one of my friends — of course, the one most nervous when the foxes would get close — and the best thing was when the fox would wait until her back was turned, then get as close as possible just so when she turned around she’d jump and retreat (I know, I’m a little evil). After a while, it grew bored and went to the water trough, deeming us unhelpful.
The compound is pretty big, and you could spend a good amount of time just walking around. The foxes come pretty close — close enough to pet them (but remember, don’t pet them!). There are many types of foxes, too. I forget the exact variety number, but it’s at least four. Of course, there’s lots of famous Japanese red foxes.
Once we finished walking around, we made our way to the back of the compound where a “feeding area” had been built. It basically looked like a hunting blind. It was on stilts, the walls only going to our chests, and a roof to keep the rain off. The floor was grate, so you could see the foxes move underneath the building. From here, you could lean over and toss the food pellets.
The foxes weren’t stupid. When they saw you make your way to the feeding area, they clustered around, looking at you expectantly. They knew food was coming.
And as soon as you tossed a food pellet, they were quick to snatch that sucker up. Foxes would wrestle for the pellets, jump on each other, and try to grab them from their jaws. Is it bad that I had a lot of fun feeding them and watching them pounce on the pellets?
After we finished our pellets, it was time to go pet a fox! Yes, for an additional fee of about 400 yen, you can pet a domesticated fox. That day, they had “Nana,” a calm fox who was just happy to lounge on a lap.
This is when I learned three things about foxes:
- They are heavy.
- They’re nice and warm on your lap, like a blanket.
- They smell.
I don’t know if it was because the foxes weren’t actually pets, but just wild foxes in a sanctuary, but that place did not smell pleasant. And most of the foxes had a distinct, um, odor. Foxes also make an interesting noise; it’s not a bark, more like a yelping whimper. I can see why, in Japanese mythology, kitsune apparently make noises like a crying child to trick travelers off the road.
You have 5 minutes with Nana, holding her, petting her, and generally having a lovely time. She was very docile, in fact she’s so laid back she didn’t even make much effort to stay balanced on my lap! I had to cradle her like a child. The lady in charge of the foxes told us this was just the fox’s personality.
After we each held Nana (see pictures of me holding Nana in the Private Gallery), we made our way to the gift shop, as you do. I got some fox swag, which I can’t show off yet, for particular reasons, but I assure you, it’s very cute.
Oh yeah, there’s also a small area with a petting zoo of goats and rabbits. One of the goats got free and an employee had to chase it into the gift shop, were it hung out while we browsed (and surprisingly didn’t eat the merchandise).
After that, there wasn’t much left to do and we headed back to Tokyo. We were back` in town just in time for an early-ish dinner and a round of karaoke after.
So yeah, the Fox Village was really cute. Reviews online have said that it’s sad the foxes are behind a fence, that some of the ones being quarantined are in cages (about the size of small closets), that everything looks dirty. I don’t know what to say to this. The foxes looked well-maintained, I didn’t see any injuries or sick ones. Japan, with its constant rain and humidity, often looks run-down, especially during this season when the ground is muddy. I would like to think they maintain the animals kindly, and I didn’t see anything to prove otherwise. I don’t know what the optimal space for foxes in a compound is, but these seemed okay. I suppose an ideal situation would be to have the foxes roam free and not be bothered by humans, particularly farmers.