We caught up with photographer and prolific instagramer Lauren Bath (@laurenepbath) about her whirlwind trip with Flight Centre to Japan earlier this year.
A highlight of the trip for Lauren was definitely Zao Fox Village, touted as ‘probably cutest place on earth’. Only in Japan right, a ‘village’ for foxes? That’s right; six different types of foxes along with other furry friends, including bunny rabbits, make up the one hundred-plus animals that call this little patch of land home. Foxes are popular in Japanese folktales, so many people visit the village with a keen interest for the history and culture behind these furry folks. For everyone else though, it’s pretty much just because they’re so darn cute.
The Fox Village is located in the mountains near Shiroishi, around a two-hour long trip on the bullet train from Tokyo. There’s very little English spoken here, but unless you speak fox, it probably doesn’t matter! Kidding. While the local people who run the village don’t speak English, they hold up a series of signs with ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ so you get the run down on how to navigate the village.
“You have to be careful of ‘animal attractions’ in some countries – you know, to make sure the animals are being treated well. However, in the fox village the foxes have plenty of room to roam and there are plenty of places for them to chill out if they didn’t want to be bothered by the tourists walking through,” says Lauren.
“There are lots of benches and nooks and hollowed out trees for them chill out in. They’re just kind of everywhere doing their thing. They sleep a lot, so you’ll have fun spotting them in their little nooks. I found a log with three or four of them curled up inside, which was totally adorable!”
“The thing I like about it is they have the opportunity to get away from you. There are areas they can retreat to, and visitors aren’t supposed to stray from the footpath, so there are definitely ‘fox only’ areas. However, they all seemed happy and quite social and didn’t mind you getting close enough to take photos.”
“Shiroishi itself is worth a trip, it’s super-photogenic. There’s a castle there, and ninjas used to live there! Obviously it’s also great in cherry blossom season!”
Lauren got lucky and experienced all Shiroishi had to offer, including an amazing display of cherry blossoms. She says “that’s what travel is about – a combination of seeing a travel agent and having the right things in place to help you, (like your rail pass, tickets and information), but also being able to explore and take opportunities as they’re there. For me, getting into Shiroishi and realising there was so much more than just the foxes and being able to take the initiative to do some other things in that area, that’s perfect travelling!”
Planning a trip to Shiroishi and the fox village? Day trips to the Fox Village are doable from Tokyo; however, if you have the time, Lauren advises staying a night in the area to explore the castle and do some sightseeing while you’re there. Tip: the further you get outside of Tokyo the less English people tend to speak, so brushing up on a few terms will help you with booking accommodation etc.
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