Where is cat island located in Japan

Are you a cat lover? Do you dream of being surrounded by fluffy, purring companions? If your answer is yes, you're in for a treat.

Cat Island, or Tashirojima in Japanese, is a place where feline friends are everywhere and eager to welcome you with open paws.

Join us as we explore this unique island, discover its history, and find out just how many cats call it home.

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The History of Cat Island

Cat Island, or officially known as Tashirojima, is located in the Pacific Ocean, near Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture.

With a population of around 100 people, it is a small and peaceful island where cats happen to outnumber humans. But how did this feline paradise come to exist?

The history of Cat Island dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). At the time, the island was thriving with a silk industry, and the farmers relied on cats to protect their precious silkworms from mice. This made cats a valuable addition to the community, and their population gradually increased over time.

In later years, Tashirojima became a popular hub for fishing, and once again, the cats played an important role. Fishermen believed the cats' behavior could predict the weather and the success of their fishing trips. They started feeding and taking care of the cats, further increasing their population and creating a deep bond between humans and felines on the island.

Today, the island remains a popular destination for both cat enthusiasts and tourists, who are drawn to its peaceful atmosphere and delightful feline residents.

In fact, Tashirojima has embraced its fame and has taken up cat-themed projects, such as the construction of Neko-jinja, a Shinto shrine dedicated to cats, and various cat-shaped lodgings for visitors.

Information about cat island Tashirojima

Location Tashirojima, Japan
Address Tashirohama, Ishinomaki, Miyagi 986-0023, Japan
Prefecture Miyagi Prefecture
Important Info for Tourists Tashirojima is known for its large population of cats, and it has become a popular destination for cat lovers. Visitors are encouraged to respect the local culture and the well-being of the cats. Please do not bring dogs to the island, as they may harm the cats. Additionally, visitors are advised to carry food and water, as there are limited facilities on the island.
Open Hours/Season Tashirojima is accessible year-round. However, it is recommended to check the ferry schedules in advance, as they may vary depending on the season.

The Cats of Cat Island

With an estimated population of around 200 cats, Cat Island is a feline haven where the furry residents can roam freely, without the fear of cars or other dangers often found in big cities. Not only do these cats coexist with the human residents, but they also depend on them for food and care.

The cats are a mix of both domesticated and feral animals, many of which display affection and trust towards humans.

Visitors will quickly notice that the feline residents of Tashirojima come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, which might encourage you to spend hours petting and photographing your new friends.

While the island’s locals enjoy the company and believe that having cats around brings good luck, they are aware of the importance of managing and maintaining the population.

In recent years, efforts have been made to spay and neuter the cats to reduce overpopulation and increase their overall well-being.

Visiting Cat Island: Travel Tips and Etiquette

Excited to experience Cat Island for yourself? Here are some essential tips and guidelines to help you plan your trip and ensure a cat-tastic visit:

  1. Getting there: The easiest way to reach Cat Island is by ferry from Ishinomaki Port in Miyagi Prefecture, which is accessible by train from Sendai or Tokyo. Ferries run daily with two round trips, though schedules may change due to weather conditions.

  2. Accommodation: While there aren’t many accommodation options on the island itself, the few that are available embrace the cat-themed aura. Manga Island, a uniquely designed cat-shaped lodging, offers cabins for overnight stays.

  3. Leave your dog at home: Bringing dogs to the island is not allowed, to protect the serenity and well-being of the feline residents.

  4. Feeding cats: While feeding the cats isn’t prohibited, it’s important to make sure any food you offer is appropriate and safe for feline consumption.

  5. Respect the cats: Always approach cats gently and with care. Remember, while many of the island’s cats are friendly, not all may feel comfortable with human interaction.

  6. Garbage disposal: Keep the island clean by properly disposing of your garbage to ensure a healthy environment for both the cats and human residents.

Events on Cat Island

There are some notable events and festivals on Cat Island that might pique your interest:

  1. Cat Day: Every year on February 22, Japan celebrates its national Cat Day, and Cat Island is no exception. Special events and activities, such as candlelight processions and cat photo exhibitions, take place on the island.

  2. Local festivals: Tashirojima also hosts traditional local events, such as the Tashiro Shrine Festival and the Kanchu Misogi (cold water ablution) ritual, where both islanders and tourists can enjoy local customs and rituals.

The Impact of the 2011 Tsunami on Cat Island

In March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the following tsunami had a devastating impact on the northeastern coast of Japan, including Cat Island.

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Thankfully, the island’s unique geography, with its highest point situated at 93 meters above sea level, helped to minimize the damage1.

The cat population played a vital role in the recovery process, as their presence attracted donations and assistance from cat lovers all around the world2. Today, the island has been mostly restored, and both its human and cat populations continue to live in harmony.

The Cat Island Documentary

In 2017, a documentary called “Cat Heaven Island” premiered, offering an in-depth look at the daily lives of Cat Island’s residents, both feline and human3.

The film showcases the touching stories and relationships that have developed over the years and highlights the island’s unique culture. Directed by Landon Donoho4, the documentary has received praise for its heartwarming portrayal of life on Cat Island and its celebration of the bond between humans and cats.

Tokyo’s Cat Cafés: A Connection to Cat Island

The uniqueness of Cat Island has inspired many cat-related concepts in Japan and abroad.

In bustling cities like Tokyo, numerous cat cafés provide urban dwellers with a chance to connect with cats and experience the joy and relaxation that comes from interacting with these lovable animals5. Some of these cafés even feature feline residents from Cat Island or other similar locations, further strengthening the bond between Japan’s feline-loving communities.

Cat Café Location Connection to Cat Island
Cat Café Mocha Various Tokyo locations Features Cat Island-inspired décor and ambiance
Neko Jalala Akihabara, Tokyo Offers a cozy atmosphere with cats from Cat Island and other islands
Cat Café Asakusa Neko-en Asakusa, Tokyo Regularly organizes events and gatherings in support of Cat Island

The Global Appeal of Cat Islands

Japan’s Cat Island is not the only place on Earth where cats are celebrated and cherished. Other cat-populated islands include Aoshima in Ehime Prefecture, Japan6, and the small Mediterranean island of Malta in Europe7.

These locales, though distinct in culture and geography, all share a common appreciation for the positive impact cats can have on human lives and the importance of fostering a healthy coexistence.

The Future of Cat Island

While Cat Island continues to thrive, the local government and various NGOs have made efforts to ensure a sustainable future for both the human and feline populations.

Projects such as the Tashirojima Cat Welfare Association aim to provide veterinary care for the cats and promote responsible tourism8. The island’s fame as a cat lovers' paradise has also led to increased interest in local history, culture, and natural beauty, encouraging a balanced and respectful approach to tourism and development.

Exploring Other Cat Islands in Japan

While Tashirojima holds the title of “Cat Island,” Japan is home to a few other islands where cats roam and rule.

One such example is Aoshima in Ehime Prefecture. Aoshima is another small, peaceful island where cats significantly outnumber the human population9.

Cats in Aoshima island
Cats in Aoshima island

Visitors to Aoshima can enjoy spending time with furry feline companions while experiencing a glimpse of Japan’s rural island life. Similar to Tashirojima, Aoshima has garnered attention from cat enthusiasts across the globe, drawing tourists who are eager to witness the unique island culture centered around the love and appreciation of cats. As you plan your trip to Japan’s Cat Island, consider visiting Aoshima and other lesser-known cat islands to take in the full feline experience that Japan has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many cats are on Cat Island in Japan?

Tashirojima, also known as Cat Island, is home to approximately 200 cats. This number may fluctuate as local efforts continue to maintain and manage the feline population.

Can you go to Cat Island Japan?

Yes, visitors are welcome to Cat Island! The easiest way to reach Tashirojima is by ferry from Ishinomaki Port in Miyagi Prefecture. Ferries typically run daily, with a few round-trip options on offer.

What is the story of Cat Island Japan?

The history of Cat Island dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), when the island's silk industry relied on cats to protect silkworms from mice. The island later became a fishing hub, where cats assisted fishermen by predicting the weather and fishing outcomes. As the residents began taking care of the cats, their population steadily increased, ultimately transforming the island into the feline paradise it is today.

Are there other cat islands in Japan besides Tashirojima?

Yes, there are other cat islands in Japan, such as Aoshima in Ehime Prefecture. Aoshima is another island where the cat population significantly outnumbers the humans living there.

Is it possible to stay overnight on Cat Island?

Tashirojima offers limited accommodation options for visitors, such as Manga Island – a unique cat-shaped lodging where you can book a comfortable cabin stay.

What activities can visitors enjoy on Cat Island?

Some of the activities on Cat Island include visiting the cat-centric Shinto shrine Neko-jinja, exploring the island's natural beauty, attending local festivals, and, of course, spending time with the friendly feline residents.

Are there any restrictions for visiting Cat Island?

Visitors should be aware that bringing dogs to the island is not allowed, out of respect for the cats and their well-being. Additionally, tourists should follow general guidelines, such as proper garbage disposal and respecting both the cats and human residents during their visit.

Conclusion

Cat Island is a true feline paradise, with a rich history and a strong bond between humans and cats. This magical island offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for cat lovers and a unique chance to witness a community built on mutual love and respect between animals and people.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, head to Tashirojima, and say konnichiwa to your new feline friends! Cat Island is a testament to the power of coexistence and serves as a symbol of love and care for our furry companions that we can all learn from.


  1. The Japan Times: How Tashirojima was saved ↩︎

  2. CNN: The cat-rescuing couple of Japan’s zombie tsunami ↩︎

  3. IMDb: Cat Heaven Island 2017  ↩︎

  4. Landon Donoho - Official Website  ↩︎

  5. The Culture Trip: A Guide to Tokyo’s Best Cat Cafés ↩︎

  6. BBC: Aoshima - Another Japanese Cat Island ↩︎

  7. Atlas Obscura: Cats of Malta ↩︎

  8. Tashirojima: Supporting Cat Island ↩︎

  9. The Guardian: A Visit to Aoshima, the Japanese Cat Island ↩︎