Are you a dog lover or a cat lover? If you answered the later within a heartbeat, Japan may have something in store that just might completely melt your heart: cat islands. While the phenomenon of cat islands remains a myth, these islands have garnered attention on the internet. Brace yourself for some feline overload.
A thirty-minute ferry from Ehime, Aoshima has become somewhat of a popular destination for those who want a glimpse of their feline residents. Originally a finishing village, the cats were introduced during the 1940’s as a way to tackle the mice that were plaguing the fisherman’s boats. Over the years, the population of Aoshima drastically decreased, while the feral cats increased ーand thrived. With a 6 to 1 ratio of cats and humans, it’s no joke that the cats rule this island.
The current population of Aoshima is estimated to be approximately 15 people, who are mostly pensioners. The lack of people on the island have resulted in abandoned houses and yes you’ll see the adorable kitty cats not only at the port but also at the empty houses roaming around freely.
While this island may seem like an alluring destination for all the cat lovers out there, it isn’t developed to be a tourist spot. Without a single restaurant, hotel and vending machine on site, keep in mind that you’ll be coming to Aoshima only for the furry creatures. Due to the influence of the media coverage, Aoshima has experienced a steep increase in tourists within the last few years. The cats on this island are fed on a regular basis, so don’t feel the need to over-feed these felines. Overall, the residents of this island don’t seem to mind the tourists as long as they’re left in peace, so traveling to Aoshima is definitely an option. If your love for cats run deeper than the average cat lover, this island is definitely worth a visit.
- Address: Aoshima, Nagahamacho, Ozushi, Ehime
- Access: From Matsuyama, take the Yosan Line, Hop off at Iyo Nagahama station. From there, walk to the Nagahama port. Take a 35 min ferry ride to Aoshima.
Surprisingly, Aoshima isn’t the only cat island in Japan. Here are 4 other locations where you can fulfill your cat-paradise dream.
- Address: Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture 251-0036
- Access: From Tokyo, take the Tokaido line to Fujisawa, Hop off at Fujisawa and
transfer to Odakyu Railway for Katase-Enoshima. From there it’ll be a 12 min walk to Enoshima.
3. Tashirojima, Miyagi
- Address: Tashirojima, Tashirohama, Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture 986-0023
- Access: From Sendai, take the Senseki line to Ishinomaki, Hop off at Ishinomaki and take the Miyako bus to the Ajishima ferry terminal. From there, hop on the Ajishima line to Tashirojima.
4. Iwai Island, Yamaguchi
- Address: Iwai Island, Iwaishima, Kaminoseki, Kumage District, Yamaguchi Prefecture 742-1401
- Access: From Yamaguchi, take the Yamaguchi line to Shin Yamaguchi, Hop off at Shin Yamaguchi and take the Sanyo Shinkansen to Tokuyama. From there, take the Sanyo main line to the port of Yanai. It is a 70-minute ferry ride from the port of Yanai.