Tashirojima: The Island for Cat People

Tashirojima in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Japan is the place to visit if you prefer cats over humans. Each year thousands of tourists flock to this small island to visit the feral cats which are thought to be a symbol of good luck and good fortune by locals. This is especially the case if the cats are well cared for and so the cats on Tashirojima are treated as kings.

Although the locals believe that the cats bring them good luck, this hasn’t exactly been the case for the human residents of Tashirojima. Over the last 50 years, the human population on the island has declined from 1,000 to less than 100.

However, despite the population being so low, this hasn’t stopped the tourists from visiting; but now it is the cats they want to see. Thanks to the cats, tourism to the island has increased and due to its popularity, the island of Tashirojima is now commonly referred to as “Cat Island”.

Read on to discover more about this fascinating island…

Cats on Tashirojima, Japan

Why is Tashirojima now known as “Cat Island”?

Tashirojima has become known as “Cat Island” due to its large population of cats which now vastly outnumber humans 6 to 1. Humans have a population of just one hundred – many of these are elderly residents.

Due to the amount of cats on the island, a lot of people are put off living on Tashirojima, but instead the island benefits from tourism.

Why so many cats?

Originally, cats were kept on the island as a form of pest control and date back to Japan’s late Edo Period, from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century. During that time, locals raised silkworms for their textiles. The cats were there to protect their precious silkworms from mice and rats.

Now, although the silkworm industry no longer exists on the island, the cat population still thrives. This is thanks to local belief that cats bring good luck, wealth and fortune. The cats, although feral, are well cared by the locals believing that their chance of good luck, wealth and fortune will double.

Why go there?

Although the human population is only around 100, thousands of tourists visit Tashirojima every year. The island now has cat shaped cabins for the tourists to stay in as well as cat shrines.

You are able to feed the cats. And, if you feel brave enough and manage to gain their trust you can pet them. However, it is important to take care around the cats and remember they have claws!

Cat Shrines at Tashirojima, Japan
Photo by Kakei.R/Creative Commons

How do you get to “Cat Island”?

Ferries go to the island from Ishinomaki three times a day. The crossing will take roughly 45 minutes.

As expected, no dogs are allowed!

Prefer rabbits to cats?

Visit Okunoshima (“Rabbit Island”) instead – an Island overrun with Rabbits! More on that one later…

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