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Foxes at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, gather at the entrace hoping for a handout as visitors enter their sanctuary on Dec. 18, 2020.
Foxes at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, gather at the entrace hoping for a handout as visitors enter their sanctuary on Dec. 18, 2020. (Theron Godbold/Stars and Stripes)
Foxes at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, gather at the entrace hoping for a handout as visitors enter their sanctuary on Dec. 18, 2020.
Foxes at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, gather at the entrace hoping for a handout as visitors enter their sanctuary on Dec. 18, 2020. (Theron Godbold/Stars and Stripes)
Rebekah Busch, an airman from Yokota Air Base, Japan, laughs as foxes skamper by at  Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, on Dec. 18, 2020.
Rebekah Busch, an airman from Yokota Air Base, Japan, laughs as foxes skamper by at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, on Dec. 18, 2020. (Theron Godbold/Stars and Stripes)
Sleeping foxes were a common sight at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, on Dec. 18, 2020.
Sleeping foxes were a common sight at Zao Fox Village in Shioisho, Japan, on Dec. 18, 2020. (Theron Godbold/Stars and Stripes)

In the mountains near Shiroishi, a town three hours’ drive north of Tokyo, is Zao Fox Village, a place populated by the four-legged furry critters.

Zao Fox Village is a unique zoo where patrons pay about $10 to enter the foxes’ world.

Signs posted throughout the zoo warn visitors not to bring food and to watch out when they bend over to take photos. The unique part of this zoo is that visitors are in the pen with the animals.

A hundred animals, including six breeds of foxes, make their homes on the large grounds.

After paying the entrance fee, visitors enter an open area where animals are kept, such as rabbits, goats and a few foxes on leashes. This is a petting area where visitors may pet a live fox for about $4.

After finishing the rounds in the petting area, pick up a bag of fox food for about $1 and enter the main attraction, the foxes’ living enclosure.

About the size of a football field, the enclosure has tall fences and many small structures for the animals to climb, play and hide in.

Don’t stop moving, though, because these furry little creatures have learned that visitors mean food. They will bunch up at the entrance and can get a little feisty. They will follow you through the enclosure and will sometimes nip at your heels.

Continue along the well-marked paths in the enclosure to the sounds of foxes laughing, yipping and hissing. Naturally, the question arises, what does a fox say?

The village is family friendly and children under 12 may enter for free. Admission fees are cash-only, in yen, along with the fox food and petting fees. However, the small gift shop accepts credit cards.

godbold.theron@stripes.com Twitter: @godboldtheron

Zao Fox VillageDirections: Address: Kawarago-11-3 Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi, Miyagi 989-0733. Google plus code: 2GRJ+84 Shiroishi, Miyagi

Times: Open March 16 through Nov. 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Dec. 1 through March 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Costs: $10 for adults; children under 12 are free.

Food: A small restaurant there serves curry and other Japanese staples.

Information: For more information visit the website at zao-fox-village.com/en

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