Miyagi Zao Fox Village
Shopping/Entertainment | Avg price: ¥0 | English Available: None (Unknown)
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Famous, But Not Great for Animal Lovers (or Foreigners)
This place was made famous within the last few years as a weird but amazing Japanese tourist site for animal lovers. My friends and I went during Golden Week of 2015. This entailed renting a car and driving up a mountain.
The facility seems to be run by a little old couple who do not speak English. Once inside, we saw many small foxes in cages with metal grate flooring in the sun, burning their feet. Nearby, baby foxes were available for photos, but only at selected times. As we filed behind the one person waiting to hold a fox with a little under 5 minutes left till the foxes' assigned break time, the old man who seemed to be in charge of the place called a stop to the photo-ops, claiming the time was up minutes before it had to be and looking at us while he did it. He later chastised one of the other foreign member of my party for petting a goat in the exact same manner a Japanese patron next to her was using.
We felt uncomfortable and moved onto the next exhibit, where for a small fee you could pet and feed goats, a small horse, and a pony. This was enjoyable and the animals seemed alright, so we continued into the fox sanctuary area. In the middle of a fenced-in field, dozens of foxes scampered about. Most of them seemed happy and in good health, though the walls of this area were lined with inset cages holding other foxes in small enough areas to look uncomfortable.
Using fox snacks provided (for a fee), we greeted and fed many foxes on out way to the large wooden structure in the middle of the field. Once on top, we realized that the healthiest foxes were all coming to us, waiting for a snack. That part was not unlike feeding coy in a pond, only furrier versions. Most of these animals were in pretty good health.
Outside of the field area, there was also a small petting zoo in which, for a fee, you could hold a baby rabbit or guinea pig and feed it for intervals of 15 minutes. The baby animals were soft and cute, but anyone with animal experience could see that they were nervous and underfed, potentially ill.
As nice as it was to be near furry friends, I cannot encourage any foreigners to waste their time and money here. Perhaps it was just our group, and maybe other people haven't had these unfortunate experiences with this grumpy old man, but I will definitely not be returning.