Frames of Time...
001_04 - Foxes of Hokkaido
The country had fascinated since elementary school days when I had done a report for class. My interest increased as the years past. I discovered Japanese animation in the 1970s, before it was anime ("Japanimation" or "JapCrap" were the most common terms.)
Around the same time I saw the film THE GLACIER FOX. Being a collector of fox items, books, art, plush, etc. I was fascinated by the fact it took place on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, an island of mostly farming communities. Suddenly I discovered most of the nature shows about foxes were shot on this island. On the island, foxes were as plentiful as stray dogs in most U.S. cities.
Hence my interest in travelling to Japan was split. I found a co-worker had met his wife in Japan. With her help, I put together a trip in which she would travel with me as guide. The trip had me spending half my week in Tokyo visiting anime shops and studios (including Tezuka and Ghibli). The second half had us visit Hokkaido and travel deep into the island where there was a "fox ranch".
Hokkaido proved to be all I had hoped as a fox enthusiast. Shortly after leaving the airport, by train, foxes were spotted roaming streets. Once we got deep into island, I became the attraction as I was pointed to and hidden from by local children. It was explained the island was mostly a tourist attraction for Japanese, and few people had seen a Caucasion in person.
The ranch was similar to a deer park. A large, fenced in area with a gift shop attached. We entered the fox area and found literally dozens of them. I had saved some potato and beans from our dinner the night before. The foxes loved them, and were "friendly" enough around people to jump at me to make me drop the food. The accompanying photo shows this.
Next it was to the gift shop. It was the size of grocery store with thousands of items from books, to videos, to toys, to clothes, to novelties and even fox furs. The owners were, at first, reluctant to inform me that they "thinned" the foxes at various times to make furs. I told them I fully understood. Like any enclosed natural habitat. Left to their own devices, the ranch would have been knee deep with foxes. Needless to say, I purchased bags and bags of souvenirs.
I was only there a few hours, but it was great. Not only did I get a chance to see foxes up close, we walked across a local bridge to a bear ranch where I got to bottle feed a cub. But more on that another day.
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