Cat Island Collection: Pioneered by Miyagi’s Tashirojima
Cats, cats, cats, everywhere you look are cats! You probably already know of this kind of island in Japan. But it’s not just 1 cat island that exists in Japan. Today we’ve picked 7 islands that are called Nekoshima or Cat Islands. And, out of all of those, we’ve chosen 2 particularly famous ones to share.
The first cat island Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. It was declared a cat island about 10 years ago. Here at Tashirojima, you’re more likely to meet cats than you are to meet other people.
And some of you may have already noticed this but this Ishinomaki is the same place that was devastated by the Tohoku (Great East Japan) earthquake. But it’s said that the island’s cats immediately sensed that something was wrong and sought refuge in the mountains together so that almost all of them were safe.
And, to help with reconstruction, there’s a famous story of a cat project where they collected donations using the island cats and earned a huge and unanticipated amount of donations. This is truly an island where you’re walking together with cats.
Tashirojima is not just a cat island, it’s also called “Manga Island” because the popular puppet show “Hyokkori Hyotan-jima” was modeled after Tashirojima.
Cats living alongside the locals
There are fewer than 100 residents who are dwindling as they continue to get older. This may be one reason the island is so comfortable for the cats to live on.
Cat Shrine (Neko-jinja)
Roughly at the center of the island, there’s a cat shrine known to be a tourist spot on Tashirojima Island. Since ancient times on Tashirojima, cats have been valued as good omens for a big catch so they were enshrined by the people here. It’s crowded with stones that have cats painted on them.
Get off at JR Ishinomaki Station –> Take the bust to “Ajishima Line” stop –> Take the ferry (the Ajishima Line) from Ishinomaki Port for about 40 minutes.
*Note that the Ajishima Line only runs 3 times a day. It heads toward Tashirojima at 9am, 12pm and 3pm so also keep in mind your return trip and take the earliest ferry at 9am. Time schedule: http://ajishimaline.com/
Aoshima in Ozu of Ehime Prefecture is another famous cat island on par with the original. It rose to sudden fame as a cat paradise with its slogan “15 locals vs. 100 cats”.
- Do not feed the cats
- Do not enter private homes or properties
- Take your trash with you
Tashirojima and Aoshima are becoming famous worldwide as cat islands, but the number of locals is dwindling, they’re getting older, and there isn’t a complete structure to welcome tourism. But, so long as you respect the rules, the locals will welcome you. Come and enjoy the island to your heart’s content.
Other Cat Islands
– Kagawa: Ogijima（男木島）
– Okayama: Manabeshima（真鍋島）
– Fukuoka: Ainoshima（相島）
– Fukuoka: Ainoshima（藍島）
– Shiga: Okishima（沖島）
Related: Animal articles