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Tashirojima Island: Where Cats Outnumber Humans & Are Enshrined As Deities

Tashirojima Island cats

Cat lovers will relate to the urge to be surrounded by cats 24/7, and to have them roaming around everywhere so you can observe their graceful selves. On Tashirojima Island in Miyagi Prefecture, you really can do just that. 

An accidental cat island

Tashirojima Island - catsImage credit:

Off the coast of Ishinomaki City in eastern Miyagi Prefecture lies the island of Tashirojima. It is home to approximately 100 people and several hundred cats. Yes, you read that right – the feline population on Tashirojima Island far exceeds that of their human counterparts. 

Back in the late Edo period, Tashirojima’s residents raised silkworms in order to produce silk. Unfortunately, the island was infested with rats that would damage silkworm cocoons. Due to the rampant infestation, the island’s residents were encouraged to rear cats to keep rats at bay. 

Eventually, the residents released their cats into the wild to better counter the rat infestation, thus creating the massive throng of stray cats on the island today. Some of them live in the village and are kept as pet cats, but most of them roam the island freely. 

Tashirojima Island - catImage credit: @karbarjepang_official

Things to do on the island

1. Play with cats, duh

Most people visit the island to play with the many adorable felines running amok. You can find them roaming around, as if they are islanders themselves. 

Tashirojima Island - cats playingImage credit: @kazutoshi_ono_photo

Tashirojima Island - cat leaping offImage credit: @kazutosho_ono_photo

The only requests the islanders have for visitors is to not feed the cats, as well as to not enter anyone’s home in pursuit of a cat. 

A good cat-watching spot is the Shima no Eki rest stop, where there are many stores selling cat-themed souvenirs, snacks, and drinks. You can grab some adorable souvenirs from your trip there.

Tashirojima Island - cat Image credit: @gagalmlv

Cats tend to gather at the store entrances and sometimes even attempt to enter the stores. If you spot them doing so, please do not carry them but try to gently guide them out of the store.

Tashirojima Island - catsImage credit: @kotonohakaze_gallery

There are also usually cat toys lying around said storefronts and visitors are allowed to use them to play with cats.  

The rest stop is one of the few places where you can buy food – other options include the Tashirojima Olive Cafe and some small eateries near Nitoda Port. If you’re worried about getting hungry, buy some food from Ishinomaki before boarding the ferry to the island. 

2. Visit the cat shrine

Tashirojima Island - cat shrineImage credit: @chu_wen_chien

On Tashirojima Island, there’s a unique shrine dedicated to a cat god. The legend stems from the fishermen of Tashirojima, who would stay in the inns on the island. There, cats would visit the fishermen to beg for scraps. 

Over time, the fishermen developed a fondness for their furry companions and started predicting the weather and hence their day’s catch by observing the actions of the cats. 

One day, when the fishermen were collecting rocks to construct their nets, a stray rock fell and killed one of the cats.Feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, the fishermen buried and enshrined the cat, which is where it remains today.

Tashirojima Island - catsImage credit: @gyunyu_leche

Cats are seen as a symbol of good luck, money, and good fortune in Japan. This has resulted in an increased occurrence of cat shrines cropping up all over the country, not just on the island. 

3. Stay in cat-shaped houses

Another highlight of the island is the numerous cat-shaped houses. These are part of a public campground that is open to bookings from the public. 

Tashirojima Island - cat themed cabinImage credit: @kebarjepang_official

Affectionately named Manga Island, the campgrounds consist of several fully furnished cabins and a grassy common area where people – both day-trippers and overnight guests alike – can gather and chill out.

Tashirojima Island - cat themed cabin
Image credit: @lechatphotographe

The cabins are beautifully decorated by famous manga artists – hence explaining the campsite’s name. These charming cat-themed cabins can hold up to 6 people, and come complete with bedding, shower facilities, a kitchen, and even cooking equipment. 

Tashirojima Island - cat drawing
Image credit: @lechatphotographe

Cabin rentals start at ¥8,000 (~USD69.29), while tents go for ¥1,500 (~USD12.99) per night. You can also rent other camping gear for an additional fee of ¥1,500 (~USD12.99).

Tashirojima Island - cat
A cat lounging under the Manga Island sign.
Image credit: @lechatphotographe 

Visiting Tashirojima Island

In order to reach the island from Ishinomaki City, you’ll have to take a ferry. The island has 2 main ports, Odamori and Nitoda Port. 

Tashirojima Island - ferryImage credit: @kebarjepang_official

If you’d like to have a higher chance of seeing more cats, we recommend alighting at Nitoda Port. However, if you’d like to explore the island itself more, take the ferry to Odamori Port instead. The 2 ports are only 2km apart, and it takes 30 minutes to get from one port to the other on foot.   

Tashirojima Cat Island

If you’re the kind of person who prefers the company of cats over people, Tashirojima Island will be a haven for you. Be sure to bring your camera so you can snap quality photos of these adorable kitties, and remember not to feed the cats.

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Cover image adapted from: @kazutoshi_ono_photo, @lechatphotographe, @chu_wen_chien