Japan's obsession with organisation has led to the country stuffing all their foxes up a mountain.
... OK, maybe not all the foxes. But the Zao Fox Village in the Miyagi Prefecture is indeed full of those bushy tailed things-that-aren't-dogs-or-cats. The site has to be accessed by car via a steep windey road and ends in a car park with a gorilla. Said gorilla is engaging in questionable relations with a park bench and has donned nail polish for the occassion.
The village itself has a make-shift sanctuary feel. The main area is an open pen the size of a small park or couple of football fields. Foxes roam freely there, dozing in the Sun or shaded within one of the many huts. Others cluster around an elevated area where visitors can buy small packets of fox food for ¥ 100 (about $1) and throw it down into the waiting maws of the carnivorous beasts.
.... OK, I admit it's kinda cute.
Around the main area are other pens for special cupcake foxes. Some of these are for young cubs and others are the foxy version of 'The Bachelor' for the production of said young cubs. There's also a hospital wing for broken foxes.
Generally speaking, the foxes looked healthy and relaxed. Nevertheless, they are not pack animals in the wild which possibly explained the needed hospital wing. Also, the two foxes having some kind of mouth-off in the large enclosure.
The village also offers the opportunity to hold a fox, but only at certain times during the day. We just missed a petting time and left just before the next one a few hours later. The foxes selected for this were in cages labelled (rather hilariously) "The fox for exclusive use of petting". These foxes were clearly not to be used for any other business you might have with foxes :|
Although you can free roam with the foxes in the main enclosure, you are warned against attempting to pet them, or indeed exposing your tempting behind to a fox snout. Shiny shiny mobile phones can apparently also be stolen and hidden by foxy thieves.
Despite the name "Fox Village" suggesting a certain type of animal, there were residents who were definitely not foxes. Some were goats. Others were Shetland ponies. One was a goat pretending to be a pony and a small bunny masquerading as a guinea pig. There were also creatures who looked like the product of an unnatural union between the rabbits and goats.
The sign claimed they were actually Patagonian Mara, but I'm not really buying it.
There's another article on the fox village here with helpful maps and good stuff. By car, the journey takes around 4 hours from Tokyo. It's a fun trip and fits in with the Japanese theme of neatly segregating its animal population to cafes or islands. However, the village itself won't take you more than a couple of hours (and we were with one very fox-obsessed friend), so maybe stay overnight, check out a castle or two or stop off at a motorway service station for some "candle boys".
No, I did not make that name up.