Cat Island, Japan: Exploring the Isle of Whiskers and Paws

Cat Island, Japan: Exploring the Isle of Whiskers and Paws

Cats are ruling this world. Even if you are not a cat man, you probably stick sometimes at your gadget’s screen to see some cat memes or TikTok videos devoted to these fluffy tyrants. Yet, do you know that there is a real Cat Island? Let’s explore that wonder of the world in our blog article.

A Brief Introduction to What Is Cat Island

If you are curious about where cats are the main residents, we can tell you that it is a Cat Island in Japan. Moreover, there are multiple isles in the Japanese archipelago which can proudly be called a Cat Island. The main reason why they are called so is because there are more cats than humans. Are you ready to downpurrrrr on the topic of the Japan Cat Island phenomenon? Then, here we go!

Exploring Japan’s Cat Islands

Some may have doubts about the question Is Cat Island real? It sounds fantastic, but in Japan, you can visit more than 6 destinations. The most popular Cat Islands are as follows:

  • Ao Island, also called Aoshima, is one of the most popular cat-loving destinations. If you wonder where that cat island is located, we’ll give you a tip. It is a 1-mile length island in Ehime Prefecture. There are only 15-20 human residents who predominantly live in a fishing village while the number of cats in Aoshima surpasses 120!
    The island is not a tourist destination. Only two ferries are circulating there to connect Ao with the bigger islands. Yet, you can visit it if you are going to this area. Only be sure that you won’t disturb locals and do not expect any comfort as there are no hotels, cafes, or other tourist amenities here.
  • Ainoshima Island, or often transcribed as Enoshima Island is another Cat Island in Japan. Where is that cat island located, you may ask? It’s just a 1.5-hour train ride from Tokyo by Odakyu train line. That is a great tourist spot as Enoshima can boast with huge cat population as well as beaches and surfing amenities.
  • Tashirojima is one more island where the cat population is dominating. If you look at the map of Cat Island in Japan, you may see it belongs to the Miyagi Prefecture. The island is tiny, and only two small villages are located there. Yet, for less than 100 people, there are 200+ cats!  
  • Sanagi Island is also called Cat Island. It is located in Kagawa Prefecture and it floats in the Seto Inland Sea. It is also a tourist spot like Ainoshima, and there are hostels, convenience stores, and even a cafe on the island despite its population being only 70 men.

Besides these 4 isles which are the most popular worldwide, Japan also has smaller and less popular cat isles like Manabeshima, for example.

cat island

Feline Overload – Why Are There So Many Cats?

Besides knowing how to get to Cat Island in Japan, you may probably wonder why there are so many cats. And the reasons vary a bit from island to island.

  • Ao Island is a cradle of the cat population which grows in a fishing village. There was enough food and locals gladly took care of cats because they believed that felines bring them luck.
  • As for Ainoshima, this is a kind of shelter where lost and abandoned cats live for a while. Then their population grew and locals also started to take care of them.
  • As for Tashirojima Island, the cat population has lived since the Edo dynasty times. Islanders grew silkworms and fished, and they kept cats to demolish mice that ate silkworms. Besides, they also believed that cats bring luck and they can predict stormy weather.

So, we can say that the habit of worshiping cats and respecting them along with the necessity to get rid of mice were the main reasons why Cat Islands appeared in Japan.

cat island

Caring for the Cats – Who Feeds Them and Can You Take One?

Do you know how many cats are on the Cat Island? We can bet that no one knows for sure. Yet, even the smallest of the Cat Islands host hundreds of them. Yet, you shouldn’t worry about how they survive. Who feeds the cats on Cat Island? Of course, it’s the residents. Moreover, if Tashirojima, Ainoshima, and Sanagi cats can be fed by tourists, Ao islanders are not happy with this idea and they prefer to feed their cats themselves. 

A Cat Lover’s Travel Guide – How to Get to Cat Island in Japan

If you want to visit one of the Cat Islands, then it is better to look at the map to find the nearest one to you.

  • If you are staying in Tokyo, you can easily visit Enoshima Island which is 90 minutes by train from the capital. Just get the Odakyu line and do not miss Enoshima station.
  • For visitors of the Miyagi Prefecture, you can get to Tashirojima Island by ferry or boat which is floating 2-3 times a day from Ishinomaki Port.
  • To get to Aoshima Island, you have to start your trip by train from the Ehime Prefecture’s capital, Matsuyama by the Yosan Line and then in Nagahama, you can get to the island by boat. 
cat island

The Cats of Japan – Names, Symbolism, and Language

Cats are worshiped in multiple cultures and Japanese culture also adores them. There are some facts you need to know about cats and their role in Japanese history, everyday life, and mythology.

  • In general, a cat in Japanese culture is a symbol of good luck. You can easily find the most popular Japanese souvenir called Maneki Neko which looks like a cat sitting on his tail with a paw waving. That’s a Feng Shui symbol of blessing and prosperity.
  • Japanese names for cats are diverse enough. The common name for felines in Japan sounds like Neko. And personal pets names which are commonly used are Suki, Chi (thanks to the anime series “Chi’s Sweet Home”), Chibi which means “tiny”, Hana – “flower”, Haru – “spring”, and “Maru” – “round”.
  • By the way, the cat named Maru is the most popular Japanese feline YouTube blogger. He has gathered likes for 16 years already due to his impeccable round face and his love for boxes. Maru even entered the Guinness World Record in 2017 as the most viewed animal on YouTube.
  • You can find numerous feline characters in Japanese animation such as Cute and Kawaii Hello Kitty, Chi, and Zizi, which is one of the leading characters in Ghibly’s “Kiki Delivery Service” anime.
  • Besides, Japan keeps the palm as one of the countries with the highest rate of cat owners.

So, the reasons why there are so many cats on Cat Island and why it emerged in Japan are logical. This country loves cats, and this love and worship are embodied in a unique tourist site called Cat Island. If you also adore sweet paws and whiskers and love these mystique and funny creatures, visiting Cat Island is a must for you. Moreover, if you wonder if can you take a cat from a cat island, you are welcome. Aoshima locals will be glad if you adopt one of their cats, for example. 

And we will be glad to enclose to you some more unusual islands which are worth your attention in our further blog articles.