Skip to content

How To Go To Zao Fox Village: Squeeee Capital Of The World

Yes, it's a real place!
Yes, it’s a real place!

Jaded denizen of the interwebz that I am, there’s not much that makes me leap out of my chair and scream “WANT!” but when I first saw a picture taken at Zao Fox Village, I had to drop everything and figure out a way to get there.

Yesterday, I finally LIVED THE DREAM!

Hello, human!
Hello, human!

It’s far from Tokyo – five hours by car – so we didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon. As soon as we got there, we bought admission tickets at the counter (¥1000) and a few little baggies of fox food to take into the fox enclosure (¥100 per baggie). As we stepped outside and saw the cages in the courtyard, I understood how it feels to win the lottery: in addition to the usual number of swoonworthy kitsune, 86 new foxlings had been born since March!

This is what a nearly unbearable amount of squee looks like.
This is what a nearly unbearable amount of squee looks like.
Pinch me! Pinch me! This anime-esque fox mama & baby are real!
Pinch me! Pinch me! This anime-esque fox mama & baby are real!
After we managed to tear ourselves away from the foxlings, we went through the door into the main habitat, which is a grassy, tree-covered hillside. Visitors are allowed to walk around freely, although you are only allowed to feed the foxes from the elevated platform. (Otherwise, anyone walking into the enclosure would be mobbed, and not in a good way. The foxes are so cute and fluffy, it's easy to forget they are predators with wicked sharp little teeth.)
After we managed to tear ourselves away from the foxlets, we went through the door into the main habitat, which is a grassy, tree-covered hillside. Visitors are allowed to walk around freely, although you are only allowed to feed the foxes from the elevated platform. (Otherwise, anyone walking into the enclosure would be mobbed, and not in a good way. The foxes are so cute and fluffy, it’s easy to forget they are predators with wicked sharp little teeth.)
Although they're wild animals and petting is forbidden, some of them are curious little buggers, and they'll come right up to you to investigate (and give you that sad panda look to test your resolve not to slip them a little treat before you get to the feeding platform. heh.)
Although they’re wild animals and petting is forbidden, some of them are curious little buggers, and they’ll come right up to you to investigate (and give you that sad panda look to test your resolve not to slip them a little treat before you get to the feeding platform. heh.)
Once they hear the crinkle of food baggies being opened, foxes come running from all quarters and assemble eagerly below.
Once they hear the crinkle of food baggies being opened, foxes come running from all quarters and assemble eagerly below.
Me! Me! Pick me!
Me! Me! Pick me!
I was surprised by how many different kinds of foxes there were. Not just the red kind, but black ones and brindle ones and white ones too.
I was surprised by how many different kinds of foxes there were. Not just the red kind, but black ones and brindle ones and white ones too.
The fastest jumper gets the prize. (Thank you, Kendall Bailey, whose jumpy fox picture turned out so much better than mine!)
The fastest jumper gets the prize. (Thank you, Kendall Bailey, whose jumpy fox picture turned out so much better than mine!)
I've never seen a fox for more than a few fleeting moments in the wild, but since they're related to dogs, I expected them to be dog-like in more than just looks. I was so wrong. The ones at Fox Village not only grin like Cheshire cats, they move like cats and their cries aren't bark-y at all. In fact,
I’ve never seen a fox for more than a few fleeting moments in the wild, but since they’re related to dogs, I expected them to be dog-like in more than just looks. I was so wrong. The ones at Fox Village not only grin like Cheshire cats, they move like cats and their cries aren’t bark-y at all. In fact, “cry” is a perfect way to describe it – at times, they sound eerily like babies.
In the wild, foxes are nocturnal. So, for every fox running around at three in the afternoon, there must have been five foxes sleeping. In fact, when I first stepped into the fox habitat, I was like, wait, where are they? The place looked deserted. Then foxes began peeking out from behind the trees, and I saw that little piles of fur were curled up everywhere, sleeping in shady spots.
In the wild, foxes are nocturnal. So, for every fox running around at three in the afternoon, there must have been five foxes sleeping. In fact, when I first stepped into the fox habitat, I was like, wait, where are they? The place looked deserted. Then foxes began peeking out from behind the trees, and I saw that little piles of fur were curled up everywhere, sleeping in shady spots.
Of course, they can still redline the squee-meter, even while sleeping. (And if you're wondering about the one on top who's having a bad fur day, it's not because she's sick – she's moulting. Starting in April, they begin to shed their winter coats, because even a fox doesn't want to be wearing a fox fur during the steamy Japanese summer.)
Of course, they can still redline the squee-meter, even while sleeping. (And if you’re wondering about the one on top who’s having a bad fur day, it’s not because she’s sick – she’s moulting. Starting in April, they begin to shed their winter coats, because even a fox doesn’t want to be wearing a fox fur during the steamy Japanese summer.)
Before we left, we did the most only-in-Japan thing of all: hold a baby fox. It's ¥300 to have pix taken with the cutest of the cute, and the money goes to help care for and feed all the foxes at Zao Fox Village. (Foxlings are born in March and April, so if you're lucky enough to be there at that time of year, you can hold one too!)
Before we left, we did the most only-in-Japan thing of all: hold a baby fox. It’s ¥300 to have pix taken with the cutest of the cute, and the money goes to help care for and feed all the foxes at Zao Fox Village. (Foxlings are born in March and April, so if you’re lucky enough to be there at that time of year, you can hold one too!)

Note: To be honest, I was a little worried about what I’d find when I got to Fox Village, because a few online reviewers thought the foxes weren’t being treated well enough. I was relieved to discover that all the foxes I saw looked fat and happy, and lived in a huge grassy area filled with structures and toys to sleep on and play with. I can also report that there were filled water troughs sitting around everywhere.

In addition to the big landscaped habitat, there were quite a few foxes in cages in the courtyard beyond the cashier. Those animals were either being treated for illnesses (one looked obviously under the weather because it had an ear infection) or were mothers with kits. The mothers can become quite aggressive after their babies are born, so they’re separated from the rest of the population for everybody’s safety.

And just in case you haven’t gotten enough foxes yet…

Fox Village Videos are here

and

Fox Village In The Snow is here!

How To Go To Zao Fox Village

Hours: 9:00 – 16:00

Open: Every day of the year

Admission: Adults ¥1000, Children (6th grade and younger): Free

Map

Getting there from Tokyo:

To get there, plug your nearest station into the Train Finder or download a free Japan Travel mobile app to your phone (I use Navitime Japan Travel) with Shiroishizao Station as the destination.

• The easiest way is to take the bullet train to Shiroishizao Station (use the Train Finder website or download a free Japan Travel mobile app to your phone (I use Navitime Japan Travel) to plan the best/cheapest way to get there from your local station) and stay overnight in the town of Shiroishi at a hot springs inn, then take their shuttle bus to and from Fox Village. Recently (according to the Fox Village website), the Yakushinoyu inn was offering a Fox Village package, which costs ¥7500 per person for a one night stay. You can call this number to make reservations and check to see if they are still offering the package: 02-2448-4126 (Note: When I went back to Fox Village in the winter, they weren’t offering the package. I suspect it’s a seasonal thing, because winter is pretty quiet in Shiroishi, tourist-wise.)

• The next-easiest way is to take the train to Shiroishizao Station and then catch a taxi from the station. It’s about a 20-minute ride, and costs between ¥3500 and ¥4000, each way. The cab drivers don’t seem to mind driving out to Fox Village at all, and you can arrange for them to come back to pick you up at a certain time, if you like (which is especially handy if you don’t want to make a phone call in Japanese AIEEEEE). Fox Village really is out in the middle of the nowhere, so it’s a good idea to have an exit plan, since you can’t really go out and hail a cab on the road outside when you’re ready to leave.

• If you’re really on a budget and want to take the bus, you’ll need to go on a Tuesday or a Friday, because that is the only day the public bus goes from Shiroishi (NOT Shiroishizao) train station to Fox Village. The bus costs ¥200 per person. It leaves Shiroishi Station at 7:58 a.m. and arrives at the Kawaragodamu bus stop (outside Fox Village) at 8:55 a.m. Be sure to mention to the bus driver that you are going to Fox Village (Kitsune-mura) or he won’t stop. There is only one pick-up in the afternoon, at 1:55 p.m. The staff at Fox Village will show you where to wait for it. The bus arrives back at Shiroishi station at 2:32 p.m. Note: I checked the train schedule, and the first bullet train from Tokyo arrives at 8:26 in the morning, too late to catch the bus to Fox Village on the same day. Unless you arrive the night before, you’ll probably have to take a taxi to Fox Village. You can still save money by taking the bus back in the afternoon, of course.

It’s always good to doublecheck Fox Village information before you go, in case there are any special circumstances (road closures, etc.) so here is a link to the English page on the Fox Village Website.

What to do when you get to Fox Village:

• Buy your tickets inside at the reception desk. It costs ¥1000 for adults (children are free). You can also buy snacks to feed the foxes (or carrots to feed the bunnies)  for ¥100 per baggie at the desk. The person at the desk will explain the rules in Japanese. Here is what she says:

– Hide the food when you are walking around in the fox habitat and only feed the foxes from the platform. (This is so they don’t learn to mob visitors – the foxes are not tame, and they can bite, so if they learn to grab food from visitors, it will be too dangerous for visitors to mix with the foxes anymore.) Children are especially vulnerable, so please be sure they understand this rule. 

– Don’t stick your fingers into the cages. Even baby foxes bite, and fingers look especially appetizing to them.

– If there are baby foxes that are available to be held for photo ops, they’ll tell you how much it costs and when the cut-off time is for “Fox Hugs.”

• After that, go through to the courtyard beyond, where they keep the foxes being treated for injuries/infections and the baby foxes (Mar – July). They will show you the door to the fox habitat to your right.

• You can roam freely around among the foxes in the habitat, for as long as you like.

• Afterwards, exit through the gift store, where they sell all kinds of Fox Village candy, good luck charms and souvenirs.

Here's the swag I couldn't resist on my way out!
Here’s the swag I couldn’t resist on my way out!

Don’t miss The Last Tea Bowl Thief!

Hauntingly beautiful, an instant immersion into feudal, wartime and modern Japan.” —Melissa MacGregor, author of The Curious Steambox Affair

In modern-day Tokyo, Robin Swann’s life has sputtered to a stop. She’s stuck in a dead-end job testing antiquities for an auction house, but her true love is poetry, not…read more

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

30 thoughts on “How To Go To Zao Fox Village: Squeeee Capital Of The World Leave a comment

  1. OMG. Every time I see a fox in the wild it takes me a couple of seconds to register what I’m looking at. It’s such a rare and wondrous sight. I would love to visit this place. I think I must share this link on FB.

    • Reva, I’m the same way! I’ve only seen foxes in the wild about three times, and it’s never for long enough! I was in heaven at Fox Village, because you can stay as long as you like, and roam around among them, and there were over a hundred of them all in one place! !

  2. OMG! This is fantastic! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wild fox. Seeing so many at once is just fabulous. I’ve always thought foxes were more like cats than dogs (and because of our name, my family collects fox things, books about foxes, etc.) Thank you!

    • It’s so much fun to find other people who love the same stuff I do! (^O^☆♪ I too have always loved foxes, and not seen nearly enough of them. Somehow, they are not usually in zoos (at least in the U.S.) but they’re very rare to see in the wild too. It was such a thrill to see so many at once.

  3. Foxes are common sight in city of Adelaide in Aus. But they don’t look like these guys! Japanese foxes have much higher cute factor, and black ones… cuuuuuute. Sounds quite complicated to get there but I really wanna meet these guys. 😙🐾

  4. Foxes also appear frequently in the city of Sapporo, often looking for food in cemetaries.
    My neighbor got in trouble for feeding a fox which began to show up regularly.
    It is important to be very hygienic around wild foxes as they carry a deadly communicable disease, transferrable through the water they drank from.
    (I expect the fox farm would have immunized all their foxes.)

    • You are so lucky to live somewhere you can see wild foxes! I have only seen a wild fox once in San Francisco (it was at the botanical garden), and it was very shy. It was gone so quickly that I only realized it was a fox after it had disappeared. (><)

  5. Thanks for the info, really useful!
    I think we will take the shinkansen to ShiroishiZao and spend a night there, then catch the bus on Friday morning to the Fox village. they’re so cute, I think it’s worth the trip!

    • It totally is! When are you going? I’m going to try to get there on the way back from Akita next week, but it’s iffy because of the snow. I badly badly want to see fat furry foxes in the snow! (=゚ω゚;;)

      • That should be really stunning looking~ ive seen some pictures of foxes in the snow on another blog (L). We will be there by mid-April though. Maybe you can update with more new pictures or write more about it :p Foxes are so cute!!!

      • Keep your fingers crossed for me! It’ll all depend on the weather and if the roads are clear enough to get through (><;;) I'll definitely post a TON of pictures if I get there! But April is a great time to go – the foxes should still be fat and furry from the winter (spring comes late to the mountains) and there might even be fox babies you can hold!

  6. Hi Jonelle!
    Great piece! Really enjoyed reading this and I too was concerned with the negative reviews regarding the treatment of foxes so its reassuring to know that is not the case!
    We are considering driving to Zao Fox Village from Tokyo in the middle of December. Is it a relatively easy/safe drive in Winter?

    • I’m so envious you’re planning to go in the winter! That’s really the best time – the foxes are very fat and furry then.

      As for driving, I’d recommend watching the weather forecast for a few days before you go. I know that some days the roads are closed if it has snowed heavily on the days before, and it would be very disappointing to drive all that way and not be able to get past the last mountain roads. You also might check their website – I’m sure if the roads are impassable, they’ll put up a notice. (It’s all in Japanese, but if you don’t read Japanese yourself, perhaps you could get someone to help you check it right before you go.)

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you have clear weather and a wonderful visit, though! Good luck!

  7. I have seen wild foxes since i was a child wherever we were. I am an expat residing in Europe and they appear to me here as well. I cannot wait to go to Japan this summer to foxtown. 🙂 they are just like dogs i looooove them so much. i had a bond with a fox when i lived in Denver for a year; as an artist I am flexible with my schedule, walking my dog at all hrs and this fox would appear(they have a 1square mile radius) -within a two block radius and stop and look at me five out of seven days a week! It was such an amazing experience as I realized I have a powerful connection with this animal. When I lived in San Francisco, Maine and MD I saw them occasionally but it was in Denver that I realized I had a bond:) soooooooooo cute!

  8. I traveled an incredibly long distance to come here and was mislead by the information you provided. The bus departs from shiroishi station NOT shiroishi zao station like you mentioned. I missed my one and only opportunity to see them. Thanks.

    • Oh no, oh no, that’s AWFUL, I am SO SORRY I gave you the wrong information! If I’d gone all the way to Shiroishi Zao and missed the bus because a blogger gave me the wrong station, I would be beyond angry and disappointed. I am really really sorry. I’ve never taken the bus myself – we always took a cab from Shiroishi Zao station – so I must have gotten the station name wrong when I translated the information from the Fox Village website. Thank you for telling me the right station – I will correct it in the blog post right now so nobody else has a disappointing experience – but I’m so sorry that you missed your chance to see the foxes because of me. I am truly horrified, and hope you have another chance to see them sometime soon.

  9. Hi,
    Would like to go there next October, maybe on 13th.. I plan to rent a car, Just want to know, is the park big ? How long would you recommend for a visit ?

    And do you know any sightseeing around this place ? I search, and I found zao onsen, but i think it’s a long wayyy to go. any rec ?

    Thanks

    • Fox Village isn’t actually that big – if there was nothing to see, you could walk around it in less than ten minutes. Fortunately, it’s filled with foxes (plus a platform for feeding them) so it’s easy to stay for a few hours, watching them and taking pictures.

      The whole area is mountainous and it’s far enough north that the leaves might be starting to turn red and yellow by mid-October, which makes it nice for hiking. The first time I went, we came by car. It takes a long time to drive there from Tokyo – about five hours, compared to two and half on the train plus a 20-minute taxi ride. We got to Fox Village around 2:00 in the afternoon, spent about three hours there, then kept going north to one of the many nice onsens in Miyagi-ken. (I don’t remember the name of the one where we stayed, but I think there are sites where you can find them online).The next day we drove over to the sea and back toward Tokyo through Ishinomaki and the tsunami zone (which is still terribly devastated) and then stopped at Nikko, at the Toshogu Shrine.

      Hope you have a great time, however you go! It’s worth the trip, I think!

      • Hi, I plan to drive there from Tokyo as well. Does that mean there’s a carpark at the fox village?
        I read somewhere suggesting parking near Shiroishi station and taking a cab there instead.

      • The first time I went, we came by car, and I remember there being a nice, big car park right in front of Fox Village. Unless things have changed recently (did the piece that recommended taking a cab give a reason?), it’s much faster and cheaper to drive there yourself instead of taking a cab.

  10. Hi
    My wife an I are travelling to Japan in April 2018 and will be staying at Ikebukuro for 4 days. Since staying the night near Zao Village is out of the question, can you help me plan a trip to Zao Village?
    How early should I leave from Ikebukuro? How much time would the trip take?
    The arrival station should be Shiroishi right? And then a taxi? We’ll be having a Japan Rail Pass. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Rodrigo! It’s so great you’re planning to go to Fox Village! And I’m going to do something better than help you plan your trip – I’m going to show you how I would find out the information you need, so as your plans change, you can get it quickly instead of going to the trouble of asking me and waiting for an answer. ^_^

      First, go to https://world.jorudan.co.jp

      Enter the station you’re leaving from (Ikebukuro), the station you want to go to (Shiroishizao), and the date you want to go. Then enter the time you want to arrive and below that, click the button for “Arrival.” Then click “Search.” If you don’t like the options, try changing the arrival time and search again.

      The results will give you one or more ways to get there by the time you asked for. It will give you the time your train leaves, how long it will take to get there, and how much it will cost (one way). It will also tell you where and when you have to change trains, and how much time you have to do it. In my experience, this app always allows a reasonable amount of time to find the new platform and get there, even if you’ve never been to that station before. Every station in Japan has signage in English as well as Japanese these days, so all you have to do is follow the signs.

      You can do the same thing for your return trip, putting “Shiroishizao” in the “From” box and “Ikebukuro” in the “To” box, only this time, click the “Depart” option and put in the time you want to leave.

      If you take a screen shot of the itinerary you want, you can show it to the reservations clerk when you make your Japan Rail Pass reservations, and that way, you’ll be sure to get reservations on the right trains.

      Hope you have a great time, and let me know if any of that isn’t clear enough!

      (Also, thank you for making me doublecheck the arrival station for the bullet train – it is in fact Shiroishizao Station, not Shiroishi. Shiroishi Station is the local train station, and it’s within walking distance, but Shiroishizao is where the bullet train stops.)

      • Thanks! This will be our second trip to Japan, so we have a bit of experience with their stations. Thanks for the webpage, it will be a great help to plan a trip to Zao Fox Village.

        One question. From Shiroishizao is the best option a Taxi? Or are there any other options? I read they charge 4000 yen for a Taxi Trip to the Fox Village 😦

        Thanks for your reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s