Hidden away in the mountains of Miyagi Prefecture is one of the world’s most unique villages. Like many mountain-dwelling communities, its residents (somewhat shy) live happily amongst nature, welcoming the occasional visitor from outside. However, in this village there is not a human resident in sight…
Welcome to Kitsune-mura – Fox Village!
Just 20-30 minutes outside of Shiroishi City you can experience an encounter with nature like no other. Forget owl cafes and islands of cats, here you can talk a stroll through the mountain forest, surrounded by dozens of cute, furry foxes!
Whilst in many countries foxes are seen as cunning creatures that shy away from human contact, in Japanese folklore and legend they are commonly depicted as creatures of high intelligence and revered messengers of the Shinto god Inari. A visit to Fox Village is a once in a lifetime chance to get an up-close-and-personal view of their softer, cuter side!
Despite its name, the ‘village’ is perhaps more accurately described as a spacious nature enclosure. Whilst some of the younger foxes (so adorable!) are caged, the adult foxes are free to roam around inside a wide section of forest that is essentially their natural habitat. Within the enclosure there are also small shelters built for the foxes to sleep and play in and a shrine to Inari. The area itself is quite beautiful and pleasant to walk around, offering a different view with each change of season.
After first entering ‘Fox Village’ (entry is 1000 yen/$10) you will find that there are several smaller enclosures inside, housing different kinds of cute and furry creatures including rabbits, small horses and goats. You can then enter the main gate into the realm of the foxes. As you walk along a wooden path, furry foxes can be found curled up next to each other, sleeping under trees or roaming around the enclosure on both sides of the path. The more curious critters might scurry after you for a while or scoot in and around your legs. They are quite used to human visitors so you can approach them pretty closely to take some pictures, but you must NOT touch them – they are still wild animals and have been known to bite (you will have a briefing about this in Japanese before you enter, complete with plenty of visuals to help you understand)!
If you want to, you can also purchase a small bag of treats (100 yen/$1) and try feeding some of them from a platform in a clearing towards the end of the path. Please note you can only feed them in this designated area – do not try feeding them directly by hand!
If observing these adorable creatures isn’t enough for you, back towards the main gate you can pay a small fee (400 yen/$4) to hold one of the more tame foxes for a few minutes (under careful watch of the enclosure staff). Holding a real fox is certainly not something you can do everyday – it is truly a once in a lifetime experience (and the ultimate selfie opportunity)!
‘Fox Village’ is open to visitors in every season. However, our recommendation would have to be to visit in winter. Whilst it can get a little chilly wandering the enclosure (jackets and gloves recommended) it is worth it to see the foxes’ brightly coloured fur is at its fuzziest and the beautiful contrast against the pure white snow.
Although undoubtedly worth the effort, the only real draw-back to ‘Fox Village’ is its access. As it is situated in the mountains of Shiroishi (about 20-30 minutes drive from Shiroishi station), it is easiest accessed by car or bus. However, the only bus service runs just once a day on Tuesdays and Fridays (very cheap at just 200 yen ($2) one way). As such, your best bet is to get together with some friends and either hire a car for the day, or split the cost of a taxi from Shiroishi station (see details about how to get there below).
Word of warning: to those with a genuine interest in the answer to the question ‘what does the fox say?’ – some questions are better left unanswered…! It’s lucky they are so cute!
How to get there:
From Tokyo Shiroishi Station:
You can reach Shiroishi-Zao station by shinkansen from Tokyo. It takes just under 2hrs and will set you back roughly 10000 yen (about $100). You can then catch a taxi from Shiroishi-Zao station to Fox Village for around 4000 yen ($40).
If you prefer to catch the only bus-service running to the village (see ‘From Shirioshi Station’), you will have to make your way from Shiroishi-Zao station (Shinkansen/bullet-train station) to Shiroishi JR station (local-line train station).
An alternative route would be to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Fukushima station (about 1.5hrs, 9000 yen/$90) and change to a local-line train to Shiroishi from there (30mins, 600 yen/$6).
From Sendai Shiroishi Station:
Take the JR local-line ‘Tohoku Honsen’ service to Shiroishi station (50 mins, 760 yen/ $8)
From Shiroishi Station Fox Village:
Considering its recent boom of popularity, the bus-service to Fox Village still has a long way to go to catch up with demand! The bus only runs once a day on Tuesdays and Fridays! It is called the ‘Castle-kun’ bus service to ‘Kawarago’. You will need to tell the bus-driver that you would like to get-off at ‘kitsune-mura mae’ (in front of Fox Village).
Shiroishi Station Fox Village: 7:58am ~ 8:55am
Fox Village Shiroishi Station: 1:35pm ~ 2:32pm
Cost: 200 yen ($2)
(The bus service is suspended over the New Year period between December 29 ~ January 3)
The most convenient way to reach Fox Village is by taxi or private car. A taxi will set you back around 4000 yen from Shiroishi station – best to go with a group of friends and split the cost!
If you stay overnight at ‘Yakushi-yu’ Ryokan in Shiroishi, they offer a free shuttle service to and from Fox Village. Visit their webpage here (Japanese).
For an easy way to look-up train services in Japan, we recommend hyperdia. Whilst not always perfect, it is a very helpful tool for navigating around Japan. You can also filter your search results to include the shinkansen lines included in your JR pass.
For more great locations in Tohoku, visit our homepage gogotohoku.jp