No you have not died and gone to heaven; cat islands are actually a REAL thing!
Fortunately some of these cat islands have become popular tourist destinations and ideally are helping the feline residents get the care, food and medical attention they need.
Please consider donating to the caretakers and organizations that are working on controlling the populations on the islands.
Japan can not only proudly draw visitors in with one island of cats…it has two very popular ones!
In Japanese culture, cats are considered good luck and believed to bring money and good fortune to anyone who crosses their path. It’s no wonder they are given their own cat islands!
The most popular and well known is the island of Tashirojima.
It is located in the northern Japan, and has been a welcoming haven for the felines for centuries. Dating back to the 1600’s, the island was a major producer of silk. And the cats protected the silkworms from mice that threatened their crops.
Wandering cats then migrated towards the fishing docks.
Here, they were fed by the sailors and fishermen lovingly. The observant seamen noticed the cats were skilled at predicting weather and fish patterns along the coast, so mimicked their skills.
Legend says that one day a rock fell on a cat, killing it. The men felt so bad they built a shrine to the cat.
There are now at least 10 cat shrines and more than 50 stone monuments dedicated to cats dotting the island landscape.
Since then, the unchecked feral populations do what they do–reproduce.
While this isn’t the healthiest or ideal situation, the number of cats on the island outnumbers humans at 6 to 1! There are only about 100 residents on the island today.
But now, cat lovers across the globe are flocking to visit the hard to reach island to visit the beloved cats.
That is if you are willing to travel from Tokyo on the bullet train for about 3-4 hours. Then it’s a short 30 min walk to the ferry. Here, you’ll hopefully catch one of the 3 boats that travels to and from the island each day.
Be sure not to miss the last boat back though. Because there are NO accommodations for you while you are stranded there.
There is only 1 store on the island, and even that is not open everyday. Your best bet is to check before you set out and definitely bring healthy food for you AND the cats!
Their one rule: NO DOGS ALLOWED! With that many cats, it’s likely for the dogs safety!
If you can’t make it to the Northern region OR if you just need more felines to visit, on the Southern end of Japan lies Aoshima Cat Island.
Here, cats outnumber people 10 to 1!
Primarily a fishing village throughout history, in the 1940’s there were about 900 human inhabitants on the small island. And it’s only a mile in width. However, just this year, the statistics have shockingly favored the felines.
There are only 13 people on the island with the average age of 75. But estimates of between 120-130 cats!!! The islanders do plan to spay and neuter all the felines this year to allow the humans to manage the large colony.
Mainly retirees, there are 4 fisherman among the group. There are no cars or bikes that pose threats to the cats. Even abandoned homes and structures are available so they can rest or escape bad weather.
If you are planning a visit to this even tinier cat island, the ferry runs 2 times a day and does NOT sell tickets in advance.
There are a limited number of spaces on the boat and people often line up hours before just to ensure their seat on the 30 minute journey.
There are no restaurants, no hotels or lodging–and not even vending machines for tourists.
Again, you will need to bring your own food for yourself. And don’t forget the food for the hungry felines who will greet you when you arrive! They have become very accustomed to humans serving them…as expected…and it’s said will “stampede” when you step off the boat.
Anyone complaining about a kitty stampede?!
If you wanted to help out and contribute to taking care of the cats on this island a portion of the sales from Amazon will go toward taking care of the cats. Be prepared with a translator program, it is in Japanese. =)
Now that your bucket list is a bit longer, we hope you’ll share all the amazing stories and photos from your visits to the aMEOWzing cat islands of Japan!
REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!
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