Get up close and personal with animals! If you’re a fan of the cute and cuddly, Japan doesn’t disappoint. In addition to world-famous animal cafes which feature cats, owls, meerkats and even hedgehogs, there are also great islands and spots where you can interact with freely-roaming creatures. We’ve collected a list of the most popular ones for your “awww’ing” enjoyment, and for your Japan trip planning ideas!
Rabbit Island (Okunoshima, Hiroshima)
A small island with a circumference of a mere 4.3 kilometers situated in the Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Hiroshima, Okunoshima has earned the nickname of Usagijima (Rabbit Island) due to the roughly 700 fluffy rabbits who make their home there. You’ll have no problems finding the bunnies and they’ll come bounding to you the moment you step off the ferry. Rabbit food is available from the visitor center but many also bring their own.
Recommended tour: 1-Day Private Taxi Plan for 2~4 Persons: Okunoshima “Rabbit Island” & Saijo Sake Breweries Tour (Round-trip from Hiroshima)
Tour Dates: Tuesdays and Fridays until Mar. 31, 2018 (Excluding Dec. 29 to Jan. 2)
★Includes round-trip transportation from hotels in Hiroshima City
★Interact with wild rabbits on the island and see beautiful views of Setouchi
★Enjoy local food, such as Daiginjo (Japanese sake) gelato
★This tour is via private taxi so you can enjoy participating in a small group
Deer Island (Miyajima, Hiroshima)
Also known as Itsukushima, this island is actually more famous for its floating torii gates which are registered as a World Heritage Site. However, from the moment you set foot on the island, there’s no avoiding the countless deer which roam about and greet the human visitors. Here, you will also meet some of the friendliest deer in Japan; Nara deer – too aggressive, Yakushima deer – too shy, but Miyajima deer? Just perfect. They will allow you to pat them and take as many selfies with them as you wish. They also will not hesitate to eat your ice cream.
Recommended tour: See all tours and activities which visit Miyajima
Cat Island (Tashirojima, Miyagi)
The popular Tashiro Island off the coast of Ishinomaki, Miyagi is a mecca for cat lovers, with the number of cats outnumbering the human population (100 cats to 86 inhabitants). There is even a cat shrine and cat photo competition on the island. Note that this is not the only cat island in Japan – Aoshima, off the coast of Ehime Prefecture, is another one, and more will probably crop up in the future.
Recommended tour: A must for cat lovers! 1-Day Tashirojima “Cat Island” Tour in Miyagi Pref.
Tour Dates: Until Nov. 30, 2017 (Excludes July 23 ~ Aug. 20)
★Get to meet and interact with lots of furry felines
★Includes lunch on the island and a cute cat picture souvenir
★Includes taxi and ferry charges from Ishinomaki Station
Fox Village (Zao, Miyagi)
Located in the mountains near Shiroishi is a place too cute for words. Known as the Zao Fox Village, over 100 friendly foxes roam freely here in their home deep in the Tohoku wilderness. The area has exploded in popularity in recent years due to its coverage on viral news websites and expat YouTuber accounts, and for good reason. The foxes are just too darn cute.
Recommended tour: Mogamiya Hot Spring Ryokan Accommodation Plan & Zao Fox Village
Tour Dates: Until Mar. 30, 2018 (Tours for October onwards go on sale Sept. 5)
★Includes transportation via private taxi
★Experience staying in a simple Japanese-style inn, called ryokan, built during the Edo Era. The ryokan features simple, Japanese-style wooden architecture, and is part of the Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns
★At the ryokan, customers may enjoy a 30-minute session at the private open-air bath free of charge (normally priced at JPY 2,160. Subject to availability on the day, limit once per group)
Snow Monkeys (Jigokudani, Nagano)
Although open all year round, the park is especially popular during the winter months, when the area is covered in snow and the wild Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, need no encouragement to soak in the natural hot spring bath. This sight is unique to Japan and the monkeys are used to humans so you can observe them up close. However, touching or feeding them is strictly prohibited.
Recommended tour: 1-Day Snow Monkey & Zenkoji Temple Tour from Hakuba
Tour Dates: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays from Dec. 18, 2017~Mar. 16, 2018
(Excluding Jan. 1~4, Jan. 18, Feb. 15 & Mar. 15)
★This plan departs from Hakuba, perfect to enjoy along with a ski trip to the area’s powder snow!
★Includes lunch at popular Suzuhana in Obuse, a town known for Hokusai, the unparalleled woodblock print artist of the 19th century
★Visit Zenko-ji Temple which boasts 1,400 years of rich history. Its main hall is a designated national treasure
Other option: Purchase the Snow Monkey Pass & 1-Day Nagaden Ticket and go free-and-easy on your own itinerary!