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06/22/2015

HOLDING BABY FOXES IN SENDAI, JAPAN: ZAO FOX VILLAGE

There are 24 hours in a day, right? So an itinerary consisting of 10 hours of travelling – 5 hours there, 5 hours back – plus maybe about 3 hours at the actual destination, not counting meals, should, in theory fit into a single day. This is, of course, if one were to negate the need for sleep and food, the possibility of getting lost, and assume that there would be no school the following day. Well, I am proud to announce that as of the end of May 2015, I have joined the ranks of people crazy enough to undertake such a demanding daytrip. Now, one might begin to ask, “what kind of tourist destination in Japan could possibly warrant exhausting oneself to such a degree?” The answer, in the case of this blog post, would have to be “Zao Fox Village” in Miyagi, Sendai.

               A friend of mine, whose favorite animal is the fox, spends much time on the internet looking up things about foxes. One day, whilst searching for fox-related things to do in Japan, she stumbled upon the website of a fox preservation site up north in the Tohoku region. I consulted my agenda, but it did not seem like we were going to have a good chance to go up there anytime soon, as Golden Week had passed, and there were no three-day weekends in sight. Upon my friend’s fervent urging, however, we eventually made plans to make a daytrip to Sendai. This was our plan, which was to be executed on a Saturday: leave extra early in the morning on a bus, get to Sendai station just before noon, ride down to Shiroishi station, catch a taxi to the fox village, then do the reverse on the way back. Equipped with an artillery of snacks and caffeine, we set off upon this journey.

               After hours of non-stop travelling, we finally reached Zao Fox Village. Around May, the weather starts becoming oppressively hot very fast, so I had preemptively dressed in single-layers. Unfortunately, I had failed to account for the fact that we were going to be at a higher altitude in the north, where the winds blow particularly cold. But once I paid the 1000-yen entrance fee and was brought into the village, the sight of adorable little baby foxes made warmth pour from my heart and flood my body.

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Prior to my departure, I’d seen many mixed reviews regarding Zao Fox Village. A lot of people were reporting how broken-hearted they’d felt to see such cute little foxes locked up in such small cages. Indeed, whilst the entry-area is where baby foxes are kept in cages, one of the village guides explained that it was for their safety as they were being raised, and once they reached adulthood, they would be released into a significantly larger free-roaming enclosure – one which guests were allowed to enter.

               The enclosure is designed to feel exactly like a naturally-occurring forest populated by foxes. Albeit, a forest with signs all over the places warning you against touching the foxes, lest they bite you. My friend had to fight hard to resist the temptation of petting her favorite animal, and was rewarded for her resistance when the staff announced the following: for 300 yen, we would be allowed to hold the baby foxes (which had yet to grow teeth) for as long as we wanted. Now, I feel pretty neutral about foxes, but the moment that baby fox was placed into my hands, my heart melted. At this point, I’m not sure what to say. It was seriously very cute.

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               With that said, one can only imagine the state of senseless bliss my friend must have found herself in. I almost had to drag her out of the village in order to make it back home on time.

               I feel like something such as a “fox preservation site” that is open to tourists would never fly back in the United States due to some inherent “dangers,” so I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have been able to get so physically close to one of nature’s cutest marvels in Japan. Though I probably won’t be undertaking a trip of this scale again, I don’t regret my decision whatsoever, and am glad I made the trip. Now, if only there were a pug preservation site in Japan…

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