Cat Island, Japan. It’s Like That “Cat Lady,” But An Entire Island

The other day, I wrote about “Cat Island, Mississippi” where the American army tried to train dogs to hunt Japanese people by smell. Today, I’m going to tell you about another cat island, except this one is in Japan, and it’s actually covered in cats, not dogs, and the cats only seem trained to find and eat fish, not certain Japanese people.

What Is It?

“Cat Island,” officially known as “Tashiro Island” (田代島), is an island near Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture… and yes, to answer your one burning question… it’s covered in cats. Check out this Google Maps satellite view of the island.

In all seriousness, though, it can be accessed via ferry. You can get from Ishinomaki (石巻) to Tashirojima (Cat Island). Here’s a big picture of Japan to see what area it’s in.

And if we zoom in, we can see Ishinomaki and Tashirojima and how close they are to each other.

When you go, you take an awesome little ferry, too. Sadly, not cat shaped in any way.

Apparently, cats on this island are way more populous than actual people on this island. There are approximately 100 residents on Cat Island, and most of them are over 70. One person is 37, and everybody else is over 60 years old. That’s a lot of old people, but luckily cats are here to save the day. According to Wikipedia:

In the past, the islanders raised silkworms for silk, and cats were kept in order to keep the mouse population down (because mice are a natural predator of silkworms). Fixed-net fishing was popular on the island after the Edo Period and fishermen from other areas would come and stay on the island overnight. The cats would go to the inns where the fishermen were staying and beg for scraps. Over time, the fishermen developed a fondness for the cats and would observe the cats closely, interpreting their actions as predictions of the weather and fish patterns. One day, when the fishermen were collecting rocks to use with the fixed-nets, a stray rock fell and killed one of the cats. The fishermen, feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, buried it and enshrined it at this location on the island.

The modern people of this island are hoping that they can use the cats (coupled with a decent amount of media attention they’ve been getting) to attract people to visit, then eventually live there. If they don’t, then I’m afraid the island will look like a scene from Jurasic Park 2: Lost World, minus the dinosaurs with a few thousand cats thrown in.

It’s only been a couple years, but I guess it’s kind of working – a lot more tourists make their way to Cat Island to take pictures of cats, feed cats, pet cats, and all kinds of other things you can do with cats.

Basically, if you like cats, this is going to be your little Cat Mecca. Besides the cats themselves, there are other cat themed things you can take part in. For example, there’s a cat shrine:

Also, there’s cat shaped buildings…

and other things as well… Thing is, you can walk this island in a day if you wanted. It’s only about 8 square miles. Don’t go into any dark alleyways, though, you never know what a mob of cats might do to you.

Oh, and of course, dogs are strictly prohibited.

Want to see more? You can watch a CCTV video on Cat Island, here. Also, here’s a map of fun things you can do (in Japanese) while visiting.

Update: Duh, YouTube has a ton of Cat Island videos. Warning. These videos contain cats.

Fisherman feeding the cats

Jack, the cat that made Cat Island Famous (he’s the one with the loppy ear)

Cat shrine


Our visit to Cat Island

P.S. If you’re worried about getting Zerg Rushed by cats, you should follow Tofugu on Twitter, Here.

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  • Christopher

    Just came across this article – looks like the island and cats are hungry, but otherwise alright – http://news.discovery.com/animals/japans-cat-island-survived-quake-needs-supplies-110315.html

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1398060312 Lynda Brooks

    My Afican safari trip has gone by the way side I will now be visiting Cat Island instead my ultimate trip of a life time :)

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  • http://denki-kawaraban.blogspot.com/ Lukas Braun 77

    That was pretty cool. Thanks a lot for this contribution. Best regards from Berlin

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  • Danstemar

    Catnimal Planet showed a Documentary on these “Human Hoarding” sneaky Felines.

  • Danstemar

    Foolish furless bipeds! This is only the first step in our plan of Worldwide Domination!!! Know this, tailless ones! Only the subservient members of your pallid-skinned race will be allowed to serve us!! Even now, Un-whiskered ones, do we plan our final Pounce, in which we are concentrating on enslaving the slobbering canines for use as our feline foot-soldiers!!! Soon you two-legged ones will rightfully bow before those with Four!! BEWARE!!! WE COME!!!!!!!!!! MMRRRROOOOOOWWRRR!!!!

  • LynZ

    did cat island get washed away with the earthquack/typhone?

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  • Sunkisstown

    I love to go there and I’ll be there some day.

  • Sunkisstown

    Do you live in Cat Island?

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  • Phychotron420

    I want an update…. are those cats still there?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    pretty sure they are

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  • TheGhost_and_TheDarkness

    No its not, if it was from fighting it would be torn, not folded. Ears don’t “break” they’re cartilage. There are a lot of cats born with one ear folded and the other ear normal. And I don’t know what you were looking at, but most of the pictures I’ve seen from that place show fat, healthy (in terms other than their weight) cats.

  • Kate

    I was wondering, since the cats are on an island surrounded by water and they go on the fishing boats out into the middle of the water, do you know if any of the cats can swim? That would be handy, especially considering the recent tsunami.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gipphe Victor Nascimento Bakke

    How did this island fare after the earthquake? Does anyone know?

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  • Seto

    ew gross.  cats are nasty and disgusting.  maybe the japanese should start eating cats instead of overkilling the whales. 

  • Cass Mond

    But do they get spayed/neutered? fed? is there a vaccination program? 

  • Famousflowerofmanhattan

    Maybe you should fucking kill yourself.

  • Meowsers

    Hmm…Is that what that song “Cats run the city” is about?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aifZgL59Ki4

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  • FinalRest78

    I think I need to send my cats here for a foreign exchange trip…

  • Flowerpower016

    COOL! Now thats my kind of place, CATS EVERYWHERE! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/leopard92 Camilla Lindblom

    aww i love cats.. i hope they’re okay on that island ^__^  if i go there and see all those cats i’m gonna melt faster than ice-cream xD

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  • Ash_cowan

    I’m so going here one day!

  • Ash_cowan

    I’m so going here one day!

  • Pokemonfreak755

    the cats are cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Tori
    the cats are kawaii!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Sam

  • Jared

    Very sad news, the areas near the ocean in Ishinomaki were entirely destroyed by the violent earthquake.  Sadly but realistically, most of these cats went down with the city.

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  • Rev. Min T. Phresh

    hoopy.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Good thing I remembered this post.
    So, I want to visit Tashirojima during Golden Week. It’s so hard to find any information about the current state of the island, even in Japanese. I found out that the people and cats are ok and that you still can visit the island, but I couldn’t find any information about the buildings. I was wondering if the cat shaped buildings and the cat shrines are still standing, for example.

    Also, you guys said you got off at the wrong spot, so you had to walk for a while.
    From your experience would it have been better to get off at the other port?
    Did you have enough time? It seems like there’s only 3-4 hours or so until you have to catch the ferry back.

  • Amandasomers6

    Nice Post

  • Megan

    This post is kind of depressing.  It’s like “look at all these pictures of cute cats who are now dead because the tsunami happened.”

  • Robcook1991

    I heard that most of japan has a similar climate to that of england, so similar to england I guess..

  • Louisefontaine96@gmail.com

    Thank you for all the facinating information. Your the best! Love those cats. !

  • Dana

    Looks amazing, would love to visit!

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