Located near the city Shiroishi in the mountains of Miyagi, Japan, the Zao Fox Village (Zao Kitsune Mura) is a paradise for fox lovers. Open since 1990, the village is a sanctuary for over a hundred animals, including six different breeds of foxes who roam freely.
After paying a small admission fee, visitors can take a tour of a bunny petting zoo, horse stables, and an enclosed area where injured and young foxes are kept for their own safety.
The main attraction, however, is the large, open preserve where foxes scamper, play, eat, and sleep.
Many of the foxes approach humans with curiosity, eager to be fed or petted, but visitors should be mindful that the adorable creatures are still semi-wild, and so may bite if provoked.
Photo credit: Tatsuro Shimono
Foxes in Japan are held in high regard.
Although they often appear in folklore as mischievous tricksters, they are also portrayed as powerful spirits or the messengers of Inari Ōkami, the Shinto deity of fertility, prosperity, rice, tea, and agriculture.