How To Get To Cat Island Japan

Introduction to Cat Island

Located in Ehime Prefecture off the coast of southern Japan, Aoshima (also known as Cat Island) is a small island inhabited mostly by cats. With just over a dozen human residents but hundreds of free-roaming felines, this unique destination has become popular amongst cat lovers and tourists looking for something off the beaten path. Though the island was originally a fishing village, the number of human inhabitants has dwindled over the years while the cat population has thrived. Nowadays, Aoshima is known for its incredible scenery, laidback vibe, and friendly cats who roam the island freely. It’s accessible via ferry from mainland Japan and offers a tranquil retreat with uncrowded beaches, shrines tucked into the lush hillsides, and fishing villages that provide glimpses into traditional Japanese life. Visitors can roam the island on foot and interact with the adorable cats who call it home.

The majority of the cats on Aoshima are feral or stray, though they seem quite comfortable with humans. Some say the large feline population originally arose because cats were brought over by fishermen to help control mice on fishing boats. Over time, the number of human inhabitants decreased, but the cats remained. The cats have become popular with tourists, who enjoy photographing and interacting with them. While on Cat Island, visitors can relax on the beach, hike nature trails to view cat shrines, sample fresh seafood, and spend time befriending the island’s furry, laidback inhabitants.

Where is Cat Island Located?

Cat Island, also known as Aoshima or Tashiro-jima, is located in Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan. The small island, which is only about 1 square kilometer in size, lies in the Pacific Ocean approximately 15 kilometers south of Ishinomaki City on the Oshika Peninsula (source: Top 3 Cat Islands in Japan).

Geographically, Cat Island is situated between the mainland of Honshu and Hokkaido. It’s one of several feline-focused islands found scattered along Japan’s coastlines. The island’s remote location and sparse human population have helped it become a haven for free-roaming cats over the years.

Cat Island can be spotted on maps of northern Japan, lying off the east coast of Honshu. An illustrated map shows its precise location near the mainland:

Cat Island map
Illustrated Catland Map of Japan

The island’s small size and abundance of feline residents have made it a popular tourist attraction for cat lovers from around the world.

About the Cats on Cat Island

Cat Island in Japan, also known as Aoshima or Tashirojima, is famous for its large population of cats that are allowed to roam freely. The majority of the cats on the island are short-haired orange tabby cats that are a mix of Japanese bobtail and calico breeds (Source). The exact cat population fluctuates between 100-200 cats at any given time as the animals come and go from the island. The cats mainly subsist on fish provided by the island’s fishermen and local residents.

The cats on Cat Island are quite friendly and accustomed to human interaction. Visitors can pet, hold, and play with the cats as they roam around the village. It’s important not to feed the cats human food or disturb their routines. While the cats will approach humans, it’s best not to overwhelm or chase after them.

Transportation Options to Get to Cat Island

Flying to Cat Island

The closest airport to Cat Island is Sendai Airport. From the airport you can take a train or bus to Ishinomaki Station, which is where you catch the ferry to the island. The journey from Sendai Airport to Ishinomaki Station takes around 1.5-2 hours depending on traffic.

Taking the Train to Cat Island

The most common way to get to Cat Island is to take the train. You can take the Shinkansen bullet train to Sendai Station, then transfer to a local train to Ishinomaki Station. The Shinkansen journey from Tokyo to Sendai takes around 1.5 hours. Then from Sendai Station, take the Senseki Line local train to Ishinomaki Station, which takes around 50 minutes (Source).

Ferries and Boats to Cat Island

From Ishinomaki Station, walk or take a short taxi ride to the Ajishima Line ferry terminal. Ferries run frequently during the day, with the journey taking around 1 hour to reach Cat Island. You can also opt to take private boats or water taxis directly from the Ishinomaki port area (Source).

Flying to Cat Island

The closest airport to Cat Island is Miyazaki Airport, which is located about 60 km from Cat Island in mainland Kyushu. There are several daily flights from Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports to Miyazaki on Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Peach Aviation, and other carriers. The flight from Tokyo to Miyazaki takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

From Miyazaki Airport, you can take a bus or taxi to Nobeoka City, and then a ferry to Cat Island. The ferry takes around 2 hours. There are also flights from Osaka Itami Airport and Fukuoka Airport to Miyazaki.

Another option is to fly into Kagoshima Airport, which has flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and other cities in Japan. From Kagoshima, take a ferry from Kagoshima Harbor, which takes around 3.5-4 hours.

Domestic flights are the most efficient way to reach Cat Island from the major hubs in Japan like Tokyo and Osaka. Flights from the USA and other international cities will connect through Tokyo or other airports in Japan.

Taking the Train to Cat Island

The most common way to reach Cat Island by train is to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Sendai Station, then transfer to local trains. According to this source, the full train journey takes around 3 hours.

From Tokyo Station, take the Hayabusa Shinkansen train on the Tohoku Shinkansen line bound for Sendai Station. This fastest bullet train gets you to Sendai in around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

At Sendai Station, transfer to the Senseki Line local train towards Ishinomaki Station. This train ride takes around 1 hour.

Finally at Ishinomaki Station, you can either walk or take a short 10-15 minute taxi ride to the Ajishima Line ferry port to catch a boat to Cat Island.

Ferries and Boats to Cat Island

The main way to reach Cat Island is by ferry from the ports of Ishinomaki or Sendai. Ferries run frequently to Cat Island’s two ports at the north and south sides of the island. The ferry ride takes around 45-60 minutes depending on your departure port.

From Sendai, there are a few ferries per day run by the company Sasaki Kisen. The ferries depart from Hon-Shiogama Port and take around 50 minutes to reach Cat Island. Tickets can be purchased at the ferry terminal on the day of departure.

From Ishinomaki there are more frequent ferries, up to around 10 per day, operated by Tashirojima Kisen. The ferries depart from Onagawa Port and take 45 minutes. You can book tickets online in advance or purchase them at the terminal.

Besides scheduled ferries, there are also options to charter private boats to Cat Island from Sendai or Ishinomaki. This allows you to customize your departure time. Charters can be booked through local operators online or in person.

Getting Around Cat Island

Cat Island is small enough that you can easily get around by walking or biking. The island is only about 2.5 km long and 1 km wide at its broadest point. Some key spots like the main port, Cat Shrine, and observation deck are within walking distance of each other near the southern part of the island.

Bring comfortable walking shoes if you plan to explore Cat Island by foot. The main road circles the perimeter of the island with some smaller roads branching inwards. Give yourself at least 2-3 hours to walk around the entirety of Cat Island at a leisurely pace.

Biking is another option to cover more ground. Bicycle rentals are available near the ferry ports. Pedaling from one end of the island to the other takes about 30 minutes. Keep in mind there are some uphill sections around the mountainous interior region.

Local buses operated by the Tashirojima Village Council also run on Cat Island, mainly serving residents but open to visitors. There are two bus routes criss-crossing the island, which cost ¥100-150 per ride. The buses allow you to avoid the steeper inclines. Schedules are limited so plan accordingly if hoping to use the buses.

Where to Stay on Cat Island

Cat Island has limited accommodation options, but offers a unique opportunity to stay near the famous felines. There are a few choices for overnight stays:


The Aoshima Island Hotel is located right next to the main harbor and provides comfortable rooms along with a restaurant and gift shop. It’s the largest lodging option on the island. Rates start around $100 per night.


For a more traditional experience, consider staying at one of the Japanese-style inns on Cat Island. The Aoshima Inn and Irori Inn both offer tatami rooms and onsen baths. Prices are around $50-70 per night.

Vacation Rentals

There are a handful of privately-owned cottages and guesthouses available to rent on Cat Island. These range from rustic huts to more modern homes. The benefit is having more space and privacy. Expect to pay $100-150 per night for a whole rental property.

Tips for Visiting Cat Island

Cat Island is a unique destination, and there are some helpful tips to know before your visit to make the most of your time there:

Best times to visit – Spring, summer, and fall are ideal times to visit when the weather is mild. Many cats nap inside during the cold winter months. Avoid holidays and summer weekends when the island can get crowded.

What to pack – Bring cat treats and toys to interact with the friendly felines. Pack layers for changing weather. Wear comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be exploring the hilly island on foot.

Etiquette around cats – Let sleeping cats lie, don’t pick them up or disturb their rest. Pet gently and stop if the cat seems annoyed. Keep a respectful distance from mother cats with kittens.

Food – There are a handful of restaurants and shops selling snacks and bento boxes. But it’s also nice to pack your own lunch or snacks for a picnic with the cats!

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