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!
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!
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
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
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.
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
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!