Foxes… which might have you think I’m talking about sexy maids again, but really… you saw the photo above… you know I’m talking about crafty, bushy-tailed creatures… no… I said I wasn’t talking about Japanese women in French maid outfits… yes… yes, I find it a very alluring look… though for me, I think it’s the medium-sized hole fishnet stockings. For me, they have to be black… I think it may stem from my love affair with DC Comics heroes Black Canary and Zatana.
|Judging by the amount of fan art out on the Internet, I'm not the only one with a Zatana (left) and Black Canary crush. Mine ended when I was 11 and discovered real girls, but the die was cast.|
Anyhow… hey, foxes!
At the foot of Mount Zaō (蔵王山, Zaō-zan))—a complex of stratovolcanoes on the border between Yamagata-ken (Yamagata Prefecture) and Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture) in Japan—there sits the Miyagi Zao Fox Village (蔵王きつね村, aka Kitsune Mura).
In the photo above, in your opinion those are the cutest critters ever, or you figure they are calmly waiting for the dumb adult human to accidentally drop his kit/kid a might to low to provide them with a nice, light snack... there's a joke in there, if you know that commercial advertisement from the past.
Access to the site is only available via car or taxi (a taxi could run you as much as ¥4000!))… a 20-minute drive from Shiroshi village’s train station… which houses local and skinkansen service.
At the Fox Village are six different varieties of fox… and over 100 animals in total… all within a preserve where the animals move freely… and what’s weird to me, is that us humans are allowed to enter, see them and even pet them.
I know foxes look kindda cute… but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go up to a wild frickin’ animal and pet it on the off-chance it decides to rip my face off and eat it or simply give me rabies or Lime’s Disease. I know you can get Lime’s Disease from ticks found on deer… but do the ticks know they have to stay on deer?
For the uninitiated, foxes have long played an important role in Japanese lore. I know… foxes have long played an important part in the lore of many other cultures, too, but this blog is about Japan.
Here;s the interesting part. When you pay your admission fee (¥1,00 adults and free for elementary aged kids and younger), you have the opportunity to purchase some fox food… so you can feed the foxes…. uh-huh. I’ve been to animal petting zoos and have been swarmed by goats, pigs, chicken, deer, camels, llamas… crap, what haven’t I been swarmed with and seen others swarmed by?
Well, foxes, for one.
|Dan Akryod and Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live, playing the Festrunk brothers - Yortuk and Georg - two wild and crazy guys who know everything there is to know about foxes.|
The first part of the Fox Village is the petting zoo. Before you enter the feeding area, Japanese professionals which will not consist of sweaty high school kids doing a summer job (Ya gotta love Japan for that)… adults who will explain all the rules of Fox Village to you… in Japanese. Shazbot!
But fret not gaijin as ignorant of the Japanese language as I am (and really… why haven’t you found 1) Japanese friends 2) Japanese significant other - to be your guide and ride to places like this.
Rule #1 of traveling in Japan… since it is always imperative to know where you are going, always have a Japanese guide or a foreigner friend who has some knowledge of the Japanese language. I would say that a Guide Book is going to be of little help when you are looking up trying to decode the Chinese letters of Japanese kanji at a bus station.
I learned that travel lesson very early in my stay in Japan after getting lost far too many times whereby when I told my bosses I was going on vacation within Japan they set up odds as to how quickly I would get lost, and where I might actually end up. Not a joke (but a joke), one of my Ohtawara Board of Education co-workers bet I would end up in Korea knowing that I was just traveling by train to Osaka. He almost won, however.
While I did find Osaka, I was trying to meet some female penpal of a guy I sortta knew back in Toronto… she thought I was him… and while she did make-out with me in my hotel, she kept enough clothes on so as to not officially have cheated on her boyfriend with me. This was my third month in Japan and my first time alone with a Japanese woman.
We then went out and met her boyfriend and had a great time drinking. I really liked her boyfriend, which made me feel like crap... but it was just kissing, so I didn't feel as poorly as I could have.
She wasn't a great kisser... and I know that sounds crazy coming from a guy who just two months earlier was still a virgin, but I stand by that accusation.
That has nothing to do with the fact that even after we met her boyfriend, she still thought I was her penpal. I understand. As a writer, the “pen is” mightier than the sword.
Now... where the fox was I? Oh yeah… Fox Village…
Just like an Ikea instruction manual, the village had graphic signs up with X’s abound to show the ins and outs of proper decorum at the village.
Along with the foxes that you can pet and take pictures with, you can also pet rabbits, miniature horses and goats.
This type of thing doesn’t screw up the animal does it?
After you’ve had your fill of heavy petting, it’s time to get down to business… and as someone who has been around foxes, that usually means buying them jewelry. But I’m actually talking about foxes who wear their fur living.
You pass through a door and enter the open area where the foxes et al wander freely… with real nature all around it laid out in such a way as though it was totally natural.
Just like in real life, many foxes upon seeing you will lope away, while others will scamper up to you in curiosity.
It has always been in my head that if a wild animal scampers up to me in curiosity, I better get the fig out of there. Apparently if this happens in Fox Village, the fox IS really only curious, and probably won’t try and bite your face off. Probably.
Hopefully you bought more food, because while there is truth in the old adage about letting sleeping dogs lie, I would assume it extended to foxes… but what do I know…
I would try not to toss food AT a sleeping or resting fox… you can shake your food bag and if they are interested they may lope over for a snack… at which time I suppose you could pet them.
Why am I wary?
Of the four Rottweiler dogs I have owned, I could feed each their own food in their own bowl and know they would never try and steal from each other. I could pet them as they ate… I could even remove their bowl WHILE they were eating - no biggie.
Now… the friendliest dog in the world - the Chocolate Labrador… if I tried to pet him when he ate, he might growl at me… he certainly would if I made an attempt to remove his dog bowl of food… growling in such a manner that you would never expect from a lab… but would expect from a Rottweiler.
The point is… you don’t know how any given fox is going to react when it comes to food. Act accordingly… which mans “warily.”
Okay… these wild foxes are used to humans… but that doesn’t mean crap. The key word in the sentence is “wild”.
Anyhow… even when the foxes come up to you, they are looking for food. I’m pretty sure that the foxes in the NON-petting area (this one) are NOT supposed to be pet.
If you want to pet a fox, go back to the petting area!
Keep in mind, that there’s very little supervision in this area.
There are little fox dens made to look like miniature human houses, a shrine and even tori gates around… at the end of the visit, you can get something to eat at a food shop and purchase omiyage or other touristy things rom the gift shop.
I’ve seen foxes before… in my backyard, in fact. And maybe because I judge animals to be essentially wild, I have no desire to actually go and pet a fox.
Sure… if foxes were truly domesticated, I might think this is a “better” idea… but how often have we heard about a so-called domesticated dog losing it?
If you don't already have a dog… here’s a bit of advice… never ever bend down and look a dog directly in the eyes… it could take it as a “challenge”. Even bending down to stare at and then hug a dog - challenge. That's how kids get bit… nervous dogs…
It’s easier for us adults… as we can maintain a physical dominance by being higher than them. Of course YOU knowing your own dog and your dog, more importantly, knowing you is also key…
Anyhow... while I'm not 100% completely sold being somewhat cowardly, here's a video of the the place. It looks pretty cool, actually:
A redhead and a red fox - which is which? Hopefully the rabies cure wasn't too painful.