Where to meet wild animals in Japan

Japan is a country with modern and futuristic cities, but still 80% covered with forest and powerful nature. It’s a great place not only for human beings but also for animals and there are even places in Japan where you can meet wild animals….forgot about sad zoos or the not-always-so-good animal cafè! Explore more and visit one of these place where you can see wild animals and observe their real life in nature!

Nara Park

The ancient capital of Japan Nara, is a touristic destination other than for the Todaiji and the Big Buddha, also for the Nara Park, where more than 1000 deers roam freely. Most deer are very eager to meet visitors who have purchased “deer crackers” from a nearby vendor; some will even politely bow in return for a tasty treat! Please note that you should follow all the park rules for interacting with the deer, especially as some can be aggressive during mating season.

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in Nagano is a special place where you can observe the Japanese monkeys who live in the harsh wilderness of deep forests in steep, mountainous areas. The park is designed around the natural environment, so there are no fences between the people and monkeys, and the wild Japanese monkeys can freely move in and out of the grounds.
The monkeys here are also known for bathing in the onsen hot springs in the area, this place was also featured by a documentary of National Geographic.

Zao Fox Village

Over 100 free-range foxes live in the Zao Fox Village on the mountain in Miyagi Prefecture. You can observe cute and fluffy foxes up close and feed them by following some rules. Along with the freely-roaming area, there is also a special area where visitors can have a very rare experience with touching and hugging some of the foxes, usually the foxes here are rescued, so they become familiar with the human touch because of the care of the vet.

Okunoshima Island

If you love rabbit, don’t miss this Hiroshima’s Island. Here the friendly and furry creatures were intentionally set loose on the island decades ago and are now protected animals.  Feel free to feed the rabbits–alfalfa pellets are sold on the island; you can even bring carrots if you like!
As food can be scarce in winter, the bunnies bid you welcome especially during the colder months (just don’t forget the snacks!).

Mikurajima

This island is located about 200 km south of Tokyo. It’s one of the rarest places in Japan where you can meet wild dolphins (Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin) as they inhabit around the island for decades.

Dolphin tours are the top tourist attraction on the island and visitors can have wonderful experiences with watching wild dolphins from boats or swimming with them in the ocean.

Cat Islands

There aren’t just one–but several so-called “cat heaven islands” in Japan–small islands here and there where for some reason or another, cats outnumber the human by a wide margin. The three most famous are perhaps Tashirojima, Aoshima, and Ainoshima. Tashirojima off the coast of Fukuoka, in particular, encourages adoration of its feline inhabitants, even going so far as to have a cat shrine.  As cats outnumber humans on this island, visitors can encounter feral cats and small kittens in every corner, and enjoy interacting with some of the friendly ones (feeding cats is not allowed on the island). The island is relatively small and you can easily walk around the island within a few hours.

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