Japan’s Animal Sanctuaries
If you wish you could freely pet animals at the Singapore Zoo, dream on. Wildlife, even when they look absolutely cute, are unpredictable. So, don’t try extending your hand to zoo animals unless you don’t mind getting your fingers chomped on.
However, all is not lost. You can still get Instagrammable shots with cuddly critters if you make your way to the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you are into hello kitties or fox news, here are 4 places we highly recommend.
1. Deer at Nara Park
On my first visit to Japan, the travel agency included a visit to Nara Park, one of the main attractions in the area. I was initially fearful I might be the victim of a stampede as there are supposed to be about 1,200 deer roaming freely in the park. To my thankful surprise, the deer turned out to be surprisingly tame! You can also buy snacks to feed them. Just don’t provoke them unless you don’t mind a hoof to the stomach.
A 5-min walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.
2. Foxes at Miyagi Fox Village
Just as in Chinese mythology, in olden times the Japanese believed in fox spirits who could be either benevolent or malevolent. Looking at their irresistibly cute smiling faces, who would associate them with malice? However, do resist touching them. The village has several rules to follow, like while you can feed the foxes, it’s better to throw food to them rather than feeding by hand. Each food serving costs about 100yen. In this majestic place foxes can be seen running freely in the wilderness. “What does the fox say?” Find out for yourself by visiting the fox village!
Take a train to Shiroishi Station, and then a 30-min taxi journey up from there, or drive if you can.
1000yen (~11.20SGD) for anyone 13 and above. Free admission for 12 and below!
3. Bunnies at Okunoshima Island
Okunoshima is a tiny island off Tadanoumi (Hiroshima), best known as Rabbit Island. It is home to more than 300 bunnies, the descendants of rabbits left on the island 40 years ago. Expect to be greeted by them when you get off the ferry because they know visitors come bearing treats.
Take the ferry (http://www.japanvisitor.com/japan-travel/japan-transport/japan-ferry) from Tadanoumi or Omishima.
4. Cats at Aojima Island & Tashirojima Island
Yes, there are at least two places in Japan to get swamped by your favourite feline! The two above-mentioned islands are the most popular.
This tiny island has only about 15 human inhabitants, but 100 cats. The kitty residents are so treasured that the people live without cars or bikes to keep the cats safe.
It’s about a 35-min boat trip from Nagahama Port, Ehime pref. Take the train to JR Iyonagahama station and walk to the port. Do note that only two boat trips a day are made to the island, the last one departing at about 4 pm.
This cat island in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, has about 80 inhabitants and more than a 100 cats. In Tashirojima, cats are treated like royalty as it is believed that cats signify good luck. There’s even a cat shrine here. So if you’re feeling a little out of luck and worried about the upcoming exams, ask the cats for a bit of help.
Take a bus from the Ishinomaki Station to get to the port. From there, take the Ajishimaline, a 40-min cruise right from Ishinomaki Port and alight at the Nitoda Port.
Share with us if you know of any more animal sanctuaries in Japan!