Japan is famous for its love for animals especially for the love they have for cats. And while in other parts of the world the dogs are the ones ruling the streets, Japan made a reputation of its Cat Islands. The name Japan gave to these places is ‘Nekojima’ or ‘Cat Island’ and there are plenty of them. We chose to present just a part of them as there are many places where you can go feed the cats.
Perhaps the most famous Cat Island is Tashirojima, in Miyagi Prefecture with a population of around one hundred people, the majority being in their 70s. The cats outnumber the locals and people keep feeding the felines because they are believed to bring luck. Dogs are prohibited on the island and vets check-up the animals regularly to make sure they are healthy.
People all over Japan come to see the cats of Tashirojima which were originally kept by the fishermen, to kill mice. The island is home to a Shinto cat shrine and the area is also famous thanks to manga artist Shotaro Ishimori, who designed cat shaped lodges for visitors.
Aoshima is another Cat Island and even though it has only 15 permanent residents it is also one of Japan’s most populated island by cats. The place has become quite popular after Twitter user Kolmetoista uploaded pictures of cats that inhabit the island. There aren’t any hotels or B&Bs, or even a restaurant so this is a strictly day-trip.
Enoshima is the closest isle worthy of the ‘cat island’ designation for residents and visitors of Tokyo. The place is also famous for its shrine located in a cave and connected to the legend that a dragon fell in love with a beautiful maiden. Enoshima is a popular destination for surfers and partiers during the summer but if you happen to stroll around the streets on an off-season afternoon, you are likely to run into as many cats as people.
Okishima in Shiga Prefecture is a floating island in the middle of Lake Biwa, the largest fish depository in Japan. Only 350 people reside on the island and because the fishing community is so small, bicycles are the only mode of transportation which means that the cats live a free-worry life.
Kadarashima in Saga Prefecture also has a beautiful legend that says that a long time ago a dog has earned the wrath of the deity of the Kadarashima’s Yasakajinja Shrine and the species was driven from the island which happen to be, even today, absent of canines.