By Karyn Lo
What does the fox say? Do I hear the echo of ‘that’s lame!’ resonating in the far off distance? No, I do not. Plus, who doesn’t like foxes? Especially tiny little baby foxes? And their little smushy faces? Well, luckily for us Tohoku region dwellers there is a lovely ‘Fox Village’ in the mountains of Miyagi Prefecture!
Miyagi Prefecture (which has Sendai, the closest thing we can get to a lively big city in this northern region) is also well known for its scenic mountains – and if you like volcanoes and scenery, then there is a caldera just for you.
The Miyagi Fox Village has been rising in popularity of late. Up in the mountains, about an hour’s drive from Sendai, is where you’ll find fox heaven! If you love foxes then this place is worth the visit. Foxes are the main attraction; however there are also a small number of other types of animals too.
The foxes are semi-wild, so it is advisable not to try and touch any of the foxes running around the open area. Same goes for taking photos with them – I guess it goes without saying. They are pretty aggressive, and only really like you if you have food on you. Kind of like me. Fickle things. Feeding the foxes is allowed from a select area of the park, and costs about ¥100 for a small bag of provided feed.During spring, you can see little fox cubs running around. The Village also lets you hold a fox for a picture (there’s an extra fee), however that’s up to your discretion whether you feel comfortable doing that.
Now, moving on from the foxes… and on to the scenery!!Mt Zao is one of the iconic scenic places in the Tohoku region, and it borders the edge of Miyagi Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture. Not only is the volcano active, there is a stunning caldera lake that’s worth a visit! The caldera is called Okama (御釜) as it looks like a traditional cooking pot. The colours of the water change depending on the season and the light hitting the water, therefore worth a visit no matter the season. You can view the caldera from a secondary mountain peak called Kattadake, as well as embark on a 45minute hike to the peak. At the peak of that mountain there is a ropeway that descends to the Zao Onsen, which is worth the visit for all onsen lovers. Finally, I really wanted to write a small note about animal welfare in Japan. There are well known controversies about the popular ‘Owl Cafes’ in Japan lately. According to the Village, the foxes at the Miyagi Fox Village are well taken care of, vaccinated, and looked after. However, it can also be argued that these wild animals are being kept and caged for human entertainment. It is purely up to you if you feel comfortable going.
So, the question is, are you ready to find out what the fox really says?
Miyagi Fox Village
9:00-17:00 (winter season 16:00), ¥1000 admission
Address: 11-3 Kawarago, Fukuokayatsumiya Shiroishi-shi, Miyagi prefecture
Okama Caldera, Mt Zao
Address: Katta-gun, Zao-machi 990-0000, Miyagi Prefecture.
Getting down to Miyagi Prefecture is a very far drive (about 4 hours to Sendai via the toll roads), however the bullet train runs from Aomori City down to Sendai within 2 hours.
Miyagi Fox Village
Castle Kun Bus – every Tuesday and Friday ¥200 (only 2 buses per day)
Shiroishi Station at 7:58/13:35 to the Kawarago Dam at 8:55/13:32.
Ask the bus driver to stop in front of Zao Kitsune Mura.
Return trip – the bus that arrives at the Kawarago Dam at 14:32.
The bus is closed from December 29th until January 3rd.
Taxi – you’d be surprised at the number of people who do this.
Okama Caldera, Mt Zao
By car – efficient, with free parking at the site. However there is a ¥540 toll road fee.
By bus –Kaminoyama Onsen Station to the Kattadake peak outside of winter – free, two buses per day.
Yamagata Station via Zao Onsen to Kattadake peak – ¥ 2050 (April-July, Aug-Nov)
Shiroishi Zao Station to Kattadake peak – ¥ 1850 (April-Nov)
By ropeway – To the upper station ¥1500 yen one way, ¥2600 yen round trip. Walk from there for about 45 minutes to the summit of Mount Zao.
Who can say no to onsen? Or are you a snowboarder or skier?
Sendai is worth the visit if you’re craving the city lights. It’s also on the bullet train line down to Tokyo!
A car a car a car!! If you can’t catch the bus to the Fox Village, you’ll probably have to bite the bullet and get a taxi.
If you travel to Mt Zao in winter, you have a chance to see the famous snow monsters of the mountain! However, Aomori’s Mt Hakkoda boasts of their own family of monsters too.