Close Encounters with Foxes and Cats in Miyagi Prefecture
Zaō Fox Village: Home to Over 100 Foxes
Zaō Fox Village, located in the foothills of Mount Zaō, Miyagi Prefecture, is home to over 100 foxes of six species, along with various other animals. Most of the foxes roam in a reservation.
Before entering the reservation, visitors receive a safety lecture delivered in Japanese and see pictures illustrating what not to do. (The pictures, with text in Japanese and English, can be viewed on the village’s website at http://zao-fox-village.com/descriptions/cautions-when-entering.)
Inside the reservation, the foxes roam unrestrained, and curious ones follow visitors as they walk around on the designated paths. Others can be seen taking naps or scrapping with each other. There is also a designated feeding station where visitors can throw food from an elevated platform to the hungry foxes gathered below.
At the village’s petting corner, visitors can touch foxes, rabbits, goats, and ponies. From 11 am to 2 pm, weather and the animals’ condition permitting, people can hold foxes in their arms. This option is especially popular in the season when fox cubs can be held, ordinarily from late April to May.
- Address: 11-3 Fukuoka Yatsumiya Kawarago, Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture
- Getting there: About 20 minutes by taxi from Shiroishi Zaō Station, Tōhoku Shinkansen
- Tel.: 0224-24-881
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm (closes at 4 pm from November 15 to March 20)
- Closed on Wednesdays
- Admission: ¥1,000, free for children of elementary school age or younger
- Foreign language support: Some English on website, in pamphlets, and on direction signs
Tashirojima, Miyagi’s Cat Island
Tashirojima, an island off the coast of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, is known for its many cats. The human population consists almost entirely of fishing families, and these residents have long treasured cats as patron divinities who bring good catches. Thanks to this feline-friendly environment, the population of cats has grown—they now outnumber the people living here—and the place has come to be known as “cat island” (Neko-jima) and “cat paradise” (Neko no Rakuen), attracting a steady stream of cat-loving human visitors from Japan and abroad.
Some of the furry residents of Tashirojima are friendly even with unfamiliar people. When a ferry from the mainland arrives, there is usually a small contingent of them on the dock to greet the passengers. Others are more reserved and watch people warily from a distance. And then there are those who seem oblivious to humans’ presence, sleeping with contented expressions or going about their own business. The cats pick different spots depending on the weather and time of day, but visitors who stroll around the island are sure to find many here and there as they go.
Manga Island, a public camping ground, features cat-shaped lodges designed by various well-known manga artists, including Chiba Tetsuya and Satonaka Machiko. Cats craving human attention gather in the vicinity of Center House, the facility’s headquarters.
A good place to take a break is the shima no eki, or “island station,” located in the central part of the island. Food and drinks are available, along with a wide selection of cat-themed souvenirs. And no trip to the island would be complete without a stop to pay one’s respects at Neko Jinja (Cat Shrine), just five minutes or so from the rest station.
- Location: Tashirojima, Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
- Getting there: 40–60 minutes by scheduled ferries on the Ajishima Line from Ishinomaki Port
- Tel.: 0225-93-6448 (Ishinomaki Municipal Tourist Association)
(Originally published in Japanese on January 22, 2019; reporting and text by Shoe Press. Banner photo: A winter scene at Zaō Fox Village in Miyagi Prefecture, where visitors encounter many foxes in a natural setting. Photo courtesy of Zaō Fox Village.)