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Shiroishi (Miyagi)

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Shiroishi (Miyagi)

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Shiroishi is a small town in Miyagi located between Fukushima to the south and Sendai to the north. Its main attractions are Zao-san Volcano, the Fox Village (Zao Kitsune Mura) and its hot springs (onsen).

Understand[edit]

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Please be aware that there are two different stations in Shiroishi, one local and one for Shinkansen which are a 15-20 minutes walk apart from each other.

Coming from Sendai, take JR Tohoku line; the ride takes only about 50 minutes. The local trains stop at Shiroishi railway station which is more in the center of the city than the Shinkansen station.

Coming from Tokyo, it is best to take a Shinkansen (you will have to change in Fukushima or Sendai); the whole trip will take about three to four hours. The Shinkansen stops at Shiroishi-Zao.

Get around[edit]

Shiroishi is a small town and you can easily walk around or take a taxi. There are always a number of taxis waiting outside the local railway station. Public busses are available but unless you are fluent in Japanese, you will find it hard to use them.

See[edit][add listing]

Zao Fox Village [3] Zao Kitsune Mura (Zao Fox Village) is a kind of zoo (don’t be mislead by the name; it has nothing to do with an actual village) where you can see foxes. A lot of foxes. Most are the red fur/black legs type but some other kinds are kept there as well. Getting there is easiest by car; from Shiroishi it is a 20 minutes drive. If you don’t have a car, you can take the bus from Shiroishi railway station (the one where the local trains stop) – the bus stop is located right outside the convenience store in front of the station. Note that this bus only runs Tuesdays and Fridays, and leaves only once at 7:58 am. Be prepared that the bus driver only speaks Japanese which might be a challenge since you need to tell them to drop you off at the fox village (there is no bus stop as such). You also have to ask them when and where the return bus leaves because there is no bus stop at the fox village. The bus returns some time after 2 pm which is a lot of time to spend at the fox village (too much time, actually, as it is not really that large, and there is nothing else to do or see in the vicinity). On the plus side, the fare is only 200 Yen one-way. Other than taking the bus, you can also get there by taxi. Being a 20 minutes drive, the ride costs about 4,000 Yen one way but if you are travelling in a group you can split the fare among you (the taxi will transport up to 4 people, making it about 1,000 Yen per person). The driver will probably give you their card and you can ask the staff at the fox village to call them (or any other taxi) when you want to go back.

Once at the fox village, you will find that a lot of the foxes roam freely in an open area with trees and climbing stands. You can purchase fox food at the reception for 100 Yen per sachet and throw it to the foxes from a special feeding stand. You will find a lot of cute subjects there. A lot of foxes, however, are also kept in very small cages that offer no space for moving, some of them not even having a proper floor but simply metal bars. There are also some foxes on leashes kept for petting (you have to ask staff for assistance), and some other animals like goats, and guinea pigs, in a petting zoo, are kept under similarly sad conditions.

Please pay heed to the safety precautions – don’t try to touch the foxes as they may bite you. Keep an eye on children. Don’t leave any loose items hanging out of your pockets or dangling from your bags as the foxes might steal and hide them. Also don’t eat inside the free-range area or throw fox food when you are not on the feeding stand as the foxes might follow you and get aggressive. The fox village is open daily through-out the year from 9 am (or a bit earlier if you show up before 9 am, staff is already there) until 5 pm). The entry fee to the fox village is 1,000 Yen (October 2015).

Shiroishi Castle The castle of Shiroishi is about a 15 minutes walk from Shiroishi local railway station and worth a visit. Having been reconstructed using only wood and traditional methods, it is a rarity among the reconstructed castles of Japan. The only reconstructed buildings are the donjon (tower) and the entry gate; the rest of the castle’s interior is now a park. Entry to the donjon is 300 Yen, and you need to buy the ticket at a vending machine (Japanese only – insert the money and push the 300 Yen button; the other buttons are for the cinema and exhibition in the large white building outside the castle walls). The vending machine is located behind the small building outside the castle gate. Entry to the park within the castle walls is free; you only need to show the ticket upon entering the donjon. From top of the tower you have a nice view over Shiroishi and the surrounding mountains including Zao-san volcano, and on the ground floor of the tower two samurai suits of armour are on display. Apart from that, there are no exhibits inside the donjon.

Behind the castle, there is a pretty shrine among the trees. Return from there to the railway station by walking along the little river and you will be able to see a lot of large, colorful koi (carp fish) near the car bridge.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Yuppo Public Bath, [1]. Shiroishi is surrounded by onsen (thermal hot spring) resorts but they can only be reached by car and are all a little bit off the beaten track. Also, if you don’t plan on spending the night there, be aware that most of them are open for day visitors only until 5 or 6 pm. If you don’t want to miss out on the fun of visiting a public bath, Yuppo is a good option. It is open until 9 pm and the taxi ride from the local railway station costs about 900 Yen one way, taking less than 10 minutes. Entry is only 500 Yen and if you happen to stay at the Pacific Hotel, they can give you a voucher that gets you a towel set for free so you don’t need to bring your own. It is not an onsen but a rotemburo (a hot bath using thermal water) which has a small outdoor pool, 5-6 indoor pools – many of them featuring massage jets for pretty much all parts of the body – and a sauna.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

The local specialty is Umen, a stew containing long wheat noodles, vegetables and pork.

  • Sasaki: Very small family-run restaurant close to the local railway station and a great recommendation if you would like to get in touch with the locals and have some authentic Japanese food with it. Just opposite the railway station (the one where the local train stops) you will see a koban (police box): facing it, you turn left. Sasaki is about 50 meters down the street, on the right side of the street (same side as the koban). The place is tiny (you can only sit at the counter) and has no menu – simply point at the food on the counter (which is the only food available) or let the owner surprise you. A full meal including miso soup, excellent sashimi, edamame beans and some other dish of vegetables or fish shouldn’t cost you more than 1,500 – 2,000 Yen per person. Speaking some Japanese helps but don’t worry if you don’t. The owners are very hospitable and if you are lucky, you are in for a very fun night with them and the other guests even if you do not speak a single word of Japanese.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Shiroishi Pacific Hotel, [2]. A one-minute walk from the local railway station, this business hotel offers simple but clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices. The booking site is only available in Japanese and a Japanese address is required to complete the booking, so best ask a Japanese friend to book it for you, or if you are staying at an English-speaking hotel before, maybe they can book it via telephone on your behalf. If none of this is possible for you, you may try just showing up as the hotel is fairly large and mainly accommodates travelling salespersons instead of tourists so usually there should be rooms available. The hotel also has an inexpensive but mediocre restaurant on the ground floor. 9,000 Yen for a twin room.  edit

There are several onsen resorts scattered around the countryside surrounding Shiroishi but none of them can be reached by public transportation.

Contact[edit]

Get out[edit]

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