Wondrous Crossings: The Village of Foxes in Japan
Zao Village brims with six species of semi-domesticated foxes who live with humans but haven’t lost the instincts of the wild.
Japan is home to entire islands full of cats and others dedicated solely to works of art. It should come then as little surprise that there’s also a village full of foxes. Of course there is. When Japanese culture ceases to amaze us, we’ve probably lost our capacity for surprise entirely. This village of foxes is called the Zao Fox Village, and is located in the Miyagi prefecture.
Since 1990, Zao has been a tourist destination for visitors from around the world. What animal lover wouldn’t want to experience these elegant creatures of the forest? Better still, there are no less than six species of foxes; the most prominent being the Japanese red fox, but you may also spot silver, black and arctic foxes.
In Japanese folklore, foxes (kitsune) are intelligent and magical beings with skills for both transmutation and deceit. According to legend, they’re also able to grow nine tails –– the more tails they have, the wiser and more powerful they become. But the shrewd and cunning foxes appear in old stories collected in cultures and in countries all over the world. It was a fox, after all, who taught the Little Prince the most important thing he was to learn in his life.
Somehow, the foxes of Zao are domesticated pets to the villagers, but despite being born in captivity and having been bred by humans, the animals inhabit a fascinating limbo of semi-domestication in which they are unfit for life indoors, but where they couldn’t survive entirely on their own either. Their amazing skill and adaptability allow them to live in close proximity to cities and even to learn to cross streets with traffic lights. Perhaps there’s no wild animal with more intelligent and elegant attributes than the fox (which combines, extravagantly, both the canine and the feline), and thanks to this village, there’s a beautiful proliferation of them among the human species.
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