Japan

There’s A Cat Island In Japan That’s Overrun By Furballs And It’s Every Bit As Cute As It Sounds

Tashirojima – Cat island in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture


Singaporeans flock to Japan for delicious food, cherry blossoms, and views of Mount Fuji. For animal lovers, it’s the free-roaming animals that are a sight to behold. There are Nara Park’s adorable deer and the sly foxes at Zao Fox Village in Fukushima.

If you have a fondness for felines, this island in Japan might be a worthy addition to your itinerary. Tashirojima, also called “Cat Island”, has a disproportionate feline-to-human ratio – here’s all you need to know. 


Why is Tashirojima called “Cat Island”?


First of all, yes, this island is dominated by cats. If you were wondering how that came to be, a short crash course on the island’s history may be useful. 

Before Japan’s main exports became cars, machines, and other commodities, farmers on Tashirojima used to farm silk. To cope with the subsequent rat infestation that plagued their silkworm farmhouses, cats were brought in as pest control.


When you “pspsps” and accidentally summon too many.
Image credit: @mattachandesu via Instagram

Since then, some were kept on as pets while others were released to roam the 3.14sqkm island freely. If you visit Tashirojima now, you’ll find 3 cats to every human resident. In fact, you’d be happy to know that they’re all well taken care of by the island’s residents. 

These felines are also the reason why the island attracts so many visitors today.       


How to get to Tashirojima from Tokyo



The sign outside Chuou Port, 15 minutes from JR Ishinomaki Station.

Image adapted from: MY TRAVEL VLOG via YouTube

While the idea of visiting an island full of cats might seem great to you, getting to Tashirojima is a bit of an adventure. If you’re coming from Tokyo, you’ll first need to take the Tohoku Shinkansen line to Sendai, which takes about 4 hours 20 minutes. Then, change to a local train from Sendai to Ishinomaki. The second leg will take around 1.5 hours. 

From there, you still need to catch one of 3 daily Tashirojima-bound Ajishima Line ferries. 


The pillars at Nitoda Port read “ようこそ, 田代島” which means “Welcome to Tashirojima”.
Image credit: @tokubob3 via Instagram

Following an hour at sea, travellers may disembark at either the Odomari or Nitoda dock to explore Tashirojima on foot. 1-way tickets to either port cost ¥1,250 (~S$11.30). You can purchase tickets from the counter at Chuou Port, but do remember to check ferry timings online beforehand.


Things to do on Tashirojima, Japan’s cat island


Visitors usually dedicate an entire day on Tashirojima before catching a ferry back to the mainland. While the adorable furballs are the main draw here, there are a few activities to add to purrfect your island-hopping itinerary:  


Hang with the furrier locals



Image credit: @seacaddis_j via Instagram

If your sole purpose for journeying here is to hang with the four-legged locals, most of them hang out at Tashirojima’s second port of call, Nitoda Port. Locals feed these retired felines, so you don’t have to share any of the snacks you brought. A healthy amount of scritches and belly rubs will do. 


You’ll even find cats on your cutlery and coasters at Kuronekodō.
Image credit: @arekkusu_man via Instagram

From Nitoda port, you can find Kuronekodō cafe, known for its curry served alongside rice shaped like a cat’s face. Venture further down the docks to Tashiro Shokudo, a seafood restaurant that serves up dishes using locally sourced seafood.

It’s important to note that both cafes are closed on Mondays, so do bring some food if you’re heading there then. Public restrooms are also available near either of Tashirojima’s ports.    


Hike to Nekokamisama & see the rest of the island



Even the torii gate at the shrine’s entrance is scaled down for cats.

Image credit: @seacaddis_j via Instagram

On the island, you’ll also find a nekokamisama. It’s a cat shrine built in memory of a cat unfortunate enough to be killed by a falling rock. As the locals believe that cats bring good fortune, pay a visit to this cat-sized monument and who knows, maybe some good luck will follow you back.


Locals leave behind maneki-neko or fortune cats to pay respects to the cat enshrined here.
Image credit: @michinokutrail via Instagram 

The shrine is located at the mid-point between either dock and is accessible via several walking trails. Don’t worry about getting lost along the way, as you’ll find signs that point in the shrine’s direction.


Check out a cat-themed camping resort



Image credit: @duckyroundtheworld via Instagram

Only open from late April till the end of October, Manga Island is a camping resort located on the island’s southernmost point. It’s named after the multiple murals and artwork that adorn their 5 lodges, all of which were drawn by manga artists or mangaka, hence the name.       


A cat lover’s dream accommodation with a view to boot.
Image credit: @koji.kitada via Instagram

In line with majority of the Tashirojima’s inhabitants, the cabins are cat-themed and available to rent from ¥8,140/night (~S$73.61). They even provide a guide to making a reservation in English for tourists. Fair warning, they don’t operate on local public holidays – something to take note if your visit coincides with one. 

If you are intent on spending the night on this island of cats, there are a few other family-run bed and breakfasts close to the ports that might have vacancies for the night. 

Manga Island
ADDRESS
Japan, 〒986-0023 宮城県石巻市田代浜敷島24
Opening Hours: Tuesday 00:00-00:00  Show More Timings  Hide 
Monday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Tuesday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Wednesday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Thursday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Friday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Saturday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
Sunday 12:00 AM-12:00 AM
GOOGLE REVIEWS
4.1
(156)
CONTACT INFORMATION


Visit the felines on Tashirojima


So if you identify as a cat person, or just want to be surrounded by clowders of them, there’s an island off the coast of Japan that you should add to your bucket list.


Graffiti outside the local museum; no points for guessing what animal they’ve chosen as their official mascot.
Image credit: @echosracine via Instagram

Like on the mainland, rubbish bins are a rarity ‘round these parts, so be mindful not to litter while you’re there. Oh, and in case you were wondering, there are no dogs on Tashirojima. In fact, they’re banned. Meowch. 

For more activities to get up to in Japan:

 


Cover image adapted from @seacaddis_j via Instagram, KKDay, & @koji.kitada via Instagram

Nicholas Ong

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