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Cat Island Japan. It’s an island covered in hundreds, maybe thousands of cats. People population? Under 100. This island has become a little tourist attraction for people who happen to like cats. You can take pictures of them, pet (some of) them, stay in cat-shaped lodging, and even visit a cat shrine. It’s a little Cat Mecca of sorts, and it’s also the very first episode of TofuguTV.

In This Episode

I’d recommend watching the video (above) before reading this if you don’t want “spoilers” (I put quotes because there probably isn’t too much to spoil in the way of plot twists, etc… this is a travel show, after all).

In this episode, I’m joined by Shinnosuke (follow on Twitter), a friend from college who’s from the Saitama region of Japan. We traveled to a few different places, one of which was “Cat Island” (aka Tashirojima). Traveling from Sendai to Ishinomaki by train, then from Ishinomaki to Tashirojima by ferry, we arrived in the early afternoon, searching for cats. Unfortunately, finding cats was difficult for a while, since we got off on the side of the island that didn’t have cats.

This episode is all about getting to Tashirojima, as well as our search for the cats of “Cat Island.” Will we find cats? You’ll have to watch to find out.

What Is Cat Island?

Cat Island (aka Tashirojima / 田代島) is a small island off of Ishinomaki (and all of this is east of Sendai, Japan). Most of the population is pretty old, with an average age between 60 and 70 (that’s old!). Their main industries include fishing and people visiting to come look at the cats. A while back, fishermen started feeding the cats thinking it was good luck. After a while, people started noticing the amount of cats on the island, and it became a little tourist attraction.

There are two villages on the island (Oodomari and Nitoda), with Nitoda containing most of the cats. Near the centerish of the island (though closer to Nitoda) is the “Cat Shrine” (猫神社). There are cat shaped buildings (also near Nitoda), as well as various other (smaller) attractions. Although you can walk from Oodomari to Nitoda, most of the “fun stuff” is on the Nitoda side, so try to stop on that side if you’re going.

Earthquake Info: Cat Island was very close to the quake. Although there’s a lot of info floating about in regards to the damage to the island, there’s nothing concrete, and nothing I’d deem as “reliable.” Most of Nitoda is built on a pretty big hill, so that’s a good sign. Oodomari was built a lot lower and closer to sea level. Solely based off of that, I’d say (at the very least) you can assume all the “Tashirojima is submerged in water” headlines are just there to get hits. Aside from that, absolutely nothing reliable has come out. If you want to support Cat Island, wait a year or so and go visit them (and spend money). In the meantime, spreading rumors about Cat Island won’t help, so everybody calm down and wait for good info!

How To Get To “Cat Island” (Tashirojima)

Currently, getting to Tashirojima is probably a bit of a challenge because of the earthquake damage. If you’re coming from the south (good chance you are), you’ll want to get to the city of Sendai. From Sendai, you can take a local train to Ishinomaki (which was pretty heavily damaged in the quake). From there, there’s a ferry (or perhaps… there was a ferry?) that can take you to Tashirojima. We took a cab from the train station to the harbor with the ferry.

Should You Go?

If you like cats, then yeah, it’s awesome. It’s a bit out of the way, and definitely would be considered “rural.” There are places to stay, but the main one (the one with cat shaped buildings) is closed part of the year (for winter). You can definitely make this a day trip (it’s pretty easy to walk across the island in a couple hours, even if you look at things along the way). There isn’t much in the way of places to eat, though depending on when you’re there you might be able to find something. Still, I’d recommend bringing lunch / dinner just in case. Also, bring cat food / treats! It’ll make the cats love you, I’m sure.

You can find more travel information on the island here, though they haven’t (as of writing this) posted anything about the earthquake.

Pictures From “Cat Island Part 1″

These are some pictures that were taken during part 1 of Cat Island. You can view more of these / higher resolution version of these in the TofuguTV Flickr Set.

Getting ready to get on the ferry to head off to Cat Island

On the ferry

Arriving at Cat Island

Shinnosuke walking up from the dock

Heading up the stairs to the temple

Lots of stairs

Left at the Cat Shrine

Cat Shrine on Cat Island

Left at the Cat Shrine

Cat Shrine, Again

A view of all the stuff left behind for the Cat Shrine

The old school

The View from up top

A couple of tourists to the island who came to take pictures

Apparently they’re really into cats…

The next episode will have a lot more cats, I promise! Thanks for waiting all this time, I’ll hopefully get the next episode out a lot quicker than this one. Maybe in two weeks? Hopefully editing will get better too – still learning how to do stuff! :)

To know when the next episode comes out, be sure to follow on Twitter, Like on Facebook, or Subscribe on YouTube (RSS works too).

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  • Suteisi

    KITTIES !!! :D This makes me happy~~~

    I hope they are all okay after the earthquakes and tsunami TwT

    Thanks for posting!

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  • http://ryanon.co.uk Ryan

    Brilliant. Is there some kind of cat-forcefield that only permits them to venture to certain parts of the island or something? Very bizarre. Glad you managed to find them though – it’d have been gutting if they’d never turned up….

  • Per Franck

    行かなくちゃいけないよ

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  • Hinoema

    Yeah, well FOX News labeled a nightclub as a nuclear plant, so that tells you the level of the minds behind the reporting XD

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  • Eubankp

    Part two, is overdue!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    yes it is :(

  • http://twitter.com/LeafyTangram Leah

     Oh man, I think my cat is from somewhere around there. He’s patterned just like the black and white kitties, looks just like them, and I’ve hardly ever seen cats that look like him.

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  • Anti

    I was actually in Ishinomaki doing some Humanitarian Relief.  The central town is relatively okay, but everything and anything near the coast was leveled.  It made me very sad to watch this video knowing what would happen.

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  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    I don’t know if you consider that as reliable information, but I went to Cat Island this May (2012) and could confirm first-hand what was damaged and what not.
    I wrote a blog post about it with a lot of information and photos, so I suppose it might be interesting for people who want to visit Cat Island but are unsure if it’s safe to go or not:
    http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/tashirojima-cat-island/

  • http://twitter.com/vaccinatedrones Pam

    Why don’t the vets desex them? Who’s going to feed them when the old people die off?

  • Mai Nguyễn

    Really love your page. Thanks ^^

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Thank you! ^__^

  • http://www.themadcatlady.com/ Barbarella Buchner

    I have those questions too…. I am wondering if there is a spay/neuter programme, and if some of them are ill, who looks after them? Is there a vet visiting regularly to take a look at them? If they are just left to breed, the island will soon be too small for all the cats.

  • http://www.themadcatlady.com/ Barbarella Buchner

    Guess they don´t need it there since everybody except one person is over 70! ;)

    Really enjoyed your post, btw. If I ever visited there, I´m sure I´d never want to leave…