Journey to Cat Island. Exploring Japan’s Feline Paradise

Introduction to Cat Island

Cat Island, officially known as Tashirojima, is a small island in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. Located in the Oshika Peninsula, the island lies just off the coast of Japan’s Tohoku region in the Pacific Ocean. Though only around 3 square kilometers in size, Tashirojima has become famous for its large stray cat population.

The feline inhabitants of Cat Island first began to multiply during the Edo Period when local fishermen started feeding them to bring good luck and prosperity. Over time, as the number of cats grew, they became an iconic part of the island’s identity. Today, there are over 100 cats living on Tashirojima, cared for by the island’s human residents who continue the tradition of providing food and shelter for the local cat community [1].

Getting to Cat Island

Cat Island, also known as Tashirojima, is located off the coast of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. To get to Cat Island, you’ll need to take a combination of trains and ferry:

From Tokyo, take the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train to Sendai Station. This journey takes approximately 4 hours 20 minutes and costs around ¥15,000 one-way. From Sendai Station, take a local train on the Senseki Line to Ishinomaki Station, which takes around 1 hour and costs ¥670 one-way.

Once at Ishinomaki Station, you can either walk or take a short taxi ride to the ferry terminal. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk or a ¥700 taxi ride. At the ferry terminal, there are regular ferries that go to Cat Island. The ferry takes around 50 minutes and costs ¥3,500 one-way. Ferries run 2-3 times per day.

In total, getting from Tokyo to Cat Island will take around 6-7 hours and cost around ¥20,000 roundtrip. The easiest option is to take the shinkansen bullet train to Sendai, followed by local trains and the ferry. Advance booking is recommended for shinkansen tickets and the ferry to ensure availability.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Cat Island is from April to October, when the weather is mild and the cats are out and about enjoying the sunshine. According to Rove, spring and fall offer pleasant temperatures and smaller crowds. Summers can be hot and humid, while winters are cold with some snow.

Try to avoid Golden Week in late April to early May and the Obon holiday in mid-August, when Cat Island sees a huge influx of tourists. During these crowded times, you’ll be competing with other visitors for spots in the cat petting areas and photos. The cats may also be more shy and hide away due to all of the commotion.

For the best experience meeting the friendly felines in their calmest state, steer clear of the busy holiday periods.

Where to Stay

There are limited accommodation options on Cat Island itself. The main place to stay is the Aoshima Island Guesthouse, a small inn with Japanese-style rooms and shared bathrooms. It provides a rustic and authentic experience surrounded by cats (Source).

There are also a couple of hotels on nearby Ogata Island that offer shuttle service to Cat Island. These include Hotel Route Inn Ishinomaki Ogatsu and Ogatsu Grand Hotel, which provide more modern and private lodging options if desired (Source).

Overall, lodging choices are simple but give travelers flexibility between an authentic island experience or more comfortable hotel stay a short boat ride away.

Cat Population

Aoshima, also known as Cat Island, is home to more cats than humans. According to Top 3 Cat Islands in Japan – HIS USA, there are only 15-20 residents on Aoshima but more than 120 cats, about 6 times the human population. The island is known for having a high density of cats that roam freely. Many of the cats are friendly and will approach visitors looking for food and attention.

To control the cat population, the island has implemented TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs. Local volunteers work to trap cats, get them spayed/neutered, and then return them to the island. This helps keep the cat population stable and manageable. The cats on Aoshima are well-taken care of by both residents and visiting cat lovers who come to see the famous felines.

Interacting with Cats

While the cats on Cat Island are quite friendly, there are some important rules to follow when interacting with them according to the Cat Island Tourism Association. First, you should not pick up or hold the cats – it can distress them. It’s also advised not to disturb sleeping cats. Let the cats approach you first before petting them. Some key tips are:

  • Let the cat sniff your hand first before petting so you don’t startle them.
  • Pet them gently under their chin and cheeks.
  • Do not make sudden loud noises or movements.
  • Do not chase or corner cats.
  • Be mindful of mothers with kittens.

Following these rules will lead to happy interactions for both you and the cats. It’s important to respect their space and let them become comfortable with you first. With over 100 friendly cats on the island, there are plenty of opportunities to have delightful encounters if you engage properly.

Cat Shrines

One of the main draws of Cat Island is the numerous cat shrines and statues dedicated to the island’s feline residents. According to the Miyori Shrine website, these shrines originated when an island cat died after being hit by a falling rock. The villagers created a shrine to appease the cat’s spirit, and the tradition has carried on ever since.

Some of the most prominent cat shrines on the island include:

Miyori Shrine: This small shrine is fully dedicated to the cats of the island. It features statues of cats as well as real cats that laze about the shrine grounds. Visitors can purchase ema (wooden plaques) and write their wishes related to cats on them before hanging them up at the shrine (Source:

Nekokamisama Shrine: Also known as the Cat God Shrine, this miniature shrine is dedicated to the spirit of the cat that was hit by a falling rock. Little cat figurines and ema surround this tiny shrine. (Source:

Koyama Shrine: This shrine features a large cat statue and smaller cat figurines. Visitors often dress up the statue in little outfits and socks.

Asakawa Shrine: This shrine contains many cat statues and ema. Locals believe that praying at this shrine will help sick and injured cats recover.

Other Things to Do

Though cats are the main attraction on Cat Island, there are some other activities and sights to enjoy during your visit. Tashirojima offers opportunities for hiking, swimming, and appreciating Japan’s natural beauty.

Several trails wind through Cat Island, allowing you to explore the island’s forests, coastline, and hilltop vistas. One popular hiking route leads up Mount Tashiro, the highest point on the island. At the summit, you’re rewarded with panoramic views over the island and sea (1).

There are a few nice beaches around the coast where you can go swimming, snorkeling, or sunbathing. Nitoda Beach on the northwestern side of the island is known for its beautiful sunsets and views of Oshika Peninsula (2).

In addition to natural sights, you can visit the remnants of villages abandoned after the 2011 tsunami. Seeing the devastation first-hand is a poignant reminder of the disaster (3).

While cats may be the highlight, spending time outdoors and appreciating the intrinsic beauty of Cat Island makes for a more varied experience.


Cat lovers visiting Cat Island will definitely want to pick up some unique cat-themed souvenirs during their trip. Some of the most popular cat souvenirs to purchase on Cat Island include:

Cat-shaped cookies and pastries – Many shops on the island sell delicious baked goods in the shape of cats, including cookies, cakes, and more. These make for tasty edible souvenirs.

Cat T-shirts and apparel – You can find T-shirts, hats, and other apparel featuring cat designs, Japanese characters, and Cat Island logos. These are great casual wear souvenirs.

Cat figurines and plush toys – Handmade clay and porcelain cat figurines and plush cat stuffed animals are available as souvenirs. These cute collectibles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Cat postcards and stationery – Send postcards featuring the island’s famous furry felines to friends back home. You can also find cat-themed notebooks, pens, and more.

Lucky cat charms – Brightly-colored beckoning lucky cat charms are popular souvenirs. These Maneki Neko figurines are said to bring good fortune.

Cat Island keepsakes – You can find specialty souvenirs like Cat Island prints, framed photos, shot glasses, refrigerator magnets, and keychains to commemorate your visit.

Picking up a few cat-themed souvenirs is a purrfect way to remember your time spent on Cat Island! Just be sure not to buy too much, as luggage space is limited.

Travel Tips

When visiting Cat Island, it’s important to be prepared so your trip goes smoothly. Here are some key travel tips:

Pack medications and motion sickness tablets if needed, as the ferry ride can be choppy. There is only one small clinic on the island, so bring any medications you may require. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, as the sun reflects off the water.

Prepare for variable weather. Pack layers and raingear, as the island weather can quickly change from sunny to rainy and windy. Bring good walking shoes as you’ll be exploring on foot once there.

Food options are very limited on the island. Stock up on snacks and food before arriving, especially if you have any dietary restrictions. The one restaurant has a small menu and keeps irregular hours.

Respect the local culture and cats. Be polite, don’t disturb the cats’ habits or living spaces, and follow any rules set by the islanders regarding interacting with the cats. Keep in mind the islanders’ primary concern is caring for the cat population.

Check ferry schedules in advance and give yourself plenty of time when traveling to/from the island. Be at the ferry 30 minutes before departure. Ferries run on limited schedules and can sell out during peak seasons.

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