When you think about Japan, what are the first thoughts that come to your mind? A lot of you might say that the large metropolis of Tokyo with all its entertainment, shopping culture and dining. Or perhaps a more emperor Japan that includes traditional homes and buildings, paper lanterns hanging from the ceilings and everywhere the eye can see, there are geishas shuffling around.
The Cat island near Tokyo you should know about
This is partly true but many of us, especially cat lovers, have been left in the dark about a special place in Japan. Tashirojima is not a place that many travel agents point out as a vital spot for tourists to visit. Not because it’s a bad place, but perhaps the reason might well be that no one would ever think that some people would like to go there just to see cats. In fact, the island has more cats than residents. Literally, cats are king in this neck of the woods and that is how the 100 primary residents on Tashirojima want to keep it. They are so serious about the care and welfare of the cats that they do not allow dogs on the island.
It is no surprise that Tashirojima has been informally named the “Cat Island”. It is interesting to know that the cats started to make an appearance during the Edo Period. During this time the island used silk worms for textiles, so cats were brought in to chase the mice away from their priceless silk worms as a form of biological pest control. Needless to say, the un-neutered cats started to multiple, while the human population drastically decreased. According to statistics, cats outnumber humans 6 to 1 on Japan’s “Cat Island”.
After the Edo Period fishermen would come to the island. They used a technique called fixed net fishing. When they had placed their net for the night, the fishermen would wait for their catch in one of the many inns on Tashirojima. The cats followed shortly begging for food. The fishermen soon grew fond of the cats, even using their actions as predictions for the weather and fish patterns. The fishermen were so enamored by the felines that they built a small cat-sized Cat Shrine called the Nekokamisama. The Cat Shrine is located at the center of the island and is dedicated to a cat that was accidentally killed by a falling rock. You can see the shrine along the road between the villages of Odomari and Nitoda.
Tashirojima cat island
If you ever get fed up of cuddling, feeding and taking photos of all the feline furballs, you could head up the hill on Tashirojima. There is no doubt you will encounter more cats on the way, but this area is technically known as “Manga Island”. Manga refers to the very popular Japanese cartoons. Shotaro Ishinomori, a well-known Manga artist, planned to live on Tashirojima’s Manga Island and his artwork is featured in this area. Here you can find cute buildings that look like cats in that Manga style. There are camping lodges shaped like cats that were built in 2000 and can be used from April until November. What a great place for a cat lover to relax. In a house that looks like a cat and is surrounded by roaming whiskers and purrs.
How to get to Cat Island
To get to Cat Island you have to take an hour ferry trip from central Ishinomaki. There are two stops you can take. One is at the small village at Odomari Port in the north of the island, while the other stop is at a larger and more developed village at Nitoda Port in the south. The villages are segregated by a forest where many narrow roads and walking trails lead to the two towns.
The 2011 tsunami affected Tashirojima and flooded both villages to a certain extent. Some building located close to the coast were destroyed. Experts say that due to the island’s location behind a peninsula, Tashirojima was protected from more severe damage. However, Japanese culture and many residents on Cat Island believe it was the cats that saved the island from being completely destroyed, since their feline friends are thought to bring good luck, money and fortune.
Local custom and residents might be right about their cats being good luck charms. In recent years Tashirojima has seen a huge increase in tourism. Many curious visitors come over by ferry just to see these furry creatures in their habitant. Yes, Tashiro Island is a Cat Lover’s paradise indeed.
About the author
Ms. Nursen Ablay is founder of Cat53, a Online store for cat Lovers, she grew up with Cats and is a passionate Cat Lover. She endeavours with her online store Cat53, to become the best destination to buy great Cat products at awesome prices. Her goal is not only make profit from sales but in the long run donate 10% of the profit to Cat charities!