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Japan Has Not One But Two Cat Islands

Japan Has Not One But Two Cat Islands

In the U.S., we talk about feral cats and stray cats as a problem of “cat overpopulation” that must be combated.

In Japan, there are not one but two “cat heaven islands.”

Tashiro-jima is a small island known as “cat island.” It is located in the Pacific Ocean off the Oshika Peninsula and has a population of only about 100 people, with 83 percent of them 65 years or older. In the past, islanders raised silkworms for silk and cats were needed to fend off mice. Fishermen also frequented Tashiro-jima and, when they stayed at inns, cat would appear seeking scraps. Over time, the fishermen found observing the cats helpful, to predict weather patterns.

After a fisherman saw a cat killed by a rock, he buried it and built a shrine, now known as Neko-jinja. It was the first of what are now ten cat shrines in Miyagi Prefecture (where Tashiro-jima is located); there are also 51 stone monuments in the shape of cats.

In addition, there are a number of cat-shaped buildings — with ear structures on their roofs — built by Manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori.

kitten in the island

Tashiro-jima was quite close to the 2011 earthquake that caused such terrible damage and loss of life in Japan. According to reports, the island’s residents, human and cat, survived the quake. They were immediately in need of food which the organization Animal Friends Niigata, along with rescue workers, were able to get to them.

Getting to Tashiro-jima from Tokyo requires a bit of effort, including travel by train and ferry. TofuguTV documents a trip there with plenty of photos of the cats; the island, he writes, is “definitely peaceful and has a nice atmosphere.” His video gives you a tour.

cat island cat

Japan’s second cat island is not (yet) as well-known. For five years, photographer Fubirai has been observing the lives of semi-wild cats on the island in Fukuoka, a city in northwestern Japan. (You can also see 50 photos of the cats in a much larger format via BuzzFeed). Quite a few of Fubirai’s photos (some taken just days ago) really capture the antics, and the good life, the cats live in co-existence with humans.

Both Tashiro-jima and the Fukuoka island seem, indeed, “peaceful” with a “nice atmosphere.” Guess that’s what can happen with a population so feline.


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Photos: at top by tofugu; in body of post by nico_nico

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4:33AM PDT on Sep 24, 2014


10:59AM PDT on Sep 23, 2014

I hope they are all being taken care of, and glad they are safe.

4:20AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

The point is whether the cats are respected as they should be

12:33AM PDT on Jul 30, 2014

Thank you!

8:16PM PDT on Jul 11, 2014


7:55PM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

How very cool is this? I would love to visit there.

7:54AM PDT on Mar 22, 2014


6:48PM PST on Nov 20, 2013

I adopted a young feral cat. Once she got used to the house she did not want to leave it!

11:58PM PST on Nov 15, 2013

Not sure if anyone has posted this here yet, so I will post it. I kept seeing information about a "cat island" in Japan but it took me a while to find out there are actually two of them! Tashirojima is the better known one and is well documented. I kept struggling to find much about the "Fukuoka island" (either Fukuoka metro area or the prefecture) mentioned on many websites. The name of this particular "cat island" is Ainoshima (相島), which is about a 20-minute ferry ride from Shingu.

5:07AM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

thank you for sharing 21/7

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