Found in Miyagi-ken’s Shiroishi-shi, the Zao Fox Village is home to about 100 foxes of six different species. Roaming freely within the grounds, visitors are encouraged to interact with the furry critters throughout the year. This is also the sole fox-themed zoo on Honshu and specialises in fox-breeding research.

▲ Zao Fox Village: http://zao-fox-village.com/en

Every November, the foxes start to grow thick layer of velvety fur which keeps them warm in the bitter cold. It is also this extra layer of downy fur that further elevates their adorable, innocent appearance. In the free-roaming zone, you can observe the foxes’ daily lives — some may scamper up to you with curiosity, while others play or sleep. Be sure to follow the instructions from the staff to avoid getting hurt. During your visit, you can even get to cuddle baby fox at an extra charge!

▲ Assorted umen noodles by Umenbansho: http://umenbansho.com/index.php (Japanese)

After your “date” with the Zao foxes, why not stop by Umenbansho for a meal? Located just 20 minutes by car from the fox village, the famous noodle shop has been making Shiroishi-style umen noodles since the Edo period (1603-1868). The origins of the dish can be traced back to a traveling monk who taught a young man how to make healthy noodles for his sick father. Made without using oil, the simple yet delicious noodles are shorter than ordinary ones and can be easily digested.

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