Cat enthusiasts unite! If you dream of living in a small town surrounded by adorable cats, you definitely need to visit these four places.
- Aoshima Island, Ehime Prefecture
Probably the most famous cat island in the world, Aoshima is a sleepy town that was once a bustling fishing island. The fishermen brought in cats to fight the rodent problem, but the cats made the island their home and settled permanently. Today, there are more than 120 cats but less than 30 residents living on the island.
Keep in mind that Aoshima is not and has never been a tourist destination, so there are no hotels, restaurants or even a vending. Most of the residents are elders and there are only two ferry trips each day. Still, it’s worth a trip for all cat lovers
- Tashirojima Island
Tashirojima is another famous cat island in Japan that was once known for its silk industry. Similarly, cats were introduced to the island to combat the mice that were imposing a threat to the silkworms. The feline domination of Tashirojima dates back to the mid-18th century during Japan’s late Edo Period.
Compared to Aoshima Island, Tashiro-jima is more tourist-friendly. A 40-minute ferry ride from Ishinomaki (near Sendai) will get you to the island, and if you’re planning to stay overnight, there are cat-shaped cabins available from April to November.
- Yanaka City
Not looking to leave Tokyo? Located within walking distance from Ueno Park, Yanaka is an old Edo Town and part of the Yanesen neighbourhood trio (the others being Nezu and Sendagi). The reason behind the feline settlement is still unknown, but the residents here sure love these furry dwellers. Many stores along Yanaka’s shopping street are decorated with cat-themed ornaments and cat statues.
If you’re a cat enthusiast with a sweet tooth, be sure to pay a visit to Maneki-ya that specializes in taiyaki, which is a Japanese street snack similar to a waffle with adzuki bean filling. What makes their taiyaki different than the rest is that it comes in the shape of a cat instead of the regular fish shape!
- Manabeshima Island
The smallest and farthest away from Tokyo, Manabeshima Island lies off the coast of Okayama Prefecture in Kasaoka City. This relaxing fishing island with a laid back feel where time passes slowly gained fame after a popular French illustrator Florent Chavouet featured the place in a book of illustrations.
The furry residents here are friendly and happy to be photographed, and they’ll be sure to greet you as soon as you leave the ferry and wherever you go. Be sure to sample the island’s signature fish cuisine made with fresh fish from the Setonaikai.