If cat cafes are a happy place for all cat lovers, then a cat island will be paradise for them. Having cats surround you while you’re enjoying nature may be a new experience for many people which is making cat islands a popular tourist attraction. Here is a list of all 13 cat islands in Japan, and hopefully it helps you decide which island you want to make your next destination.
1. Tashirojima Island, Miyagi Prefecture, Manga Island
Tashirojima Island is a famous cat island in Japan that’s not too far away from Sendai. Most people there have been doing fishery for years and take care of their cats very well as they’re believed to be a mascot. Nowadays, there are about 100 cats on the island. At the center of the island, there is a cat shrine devoted to cats that died due to the falling rocks. There is also a cute resort decorated in a cat-house style called, “Manga Island.” Those who are planning to travel Northeastern Japan should consider visiting Tashirojima Cat Island.
2. Enoshima Island, Kanagawa Prefecture
Enoshima Island is located in the Southwest of Tokyo and is the closest cat island near Tokyo. It’s a popular place amongst the Japanese for relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and so on. On the island, there is a Dragon God shrine where people can pray for their love. Also, on a bright day, you might be able to see Mt. Fuji from there too.
Enoshima Island has had an increase in cat population since 1980 as a lot of people left their cats behind. Enoshima Island is very close to Kamakura, so those in the area can plan a visit to Enoshima as well.
3. Okishima Island, Shiga Prefecture
This Okishima Island is located in Lake Biwa (Biwako), Shiga Prefecture. Lake Biwa is considered the third oldest lake in the world. Lake Biwa has high biodiversity with over 1,000 different kinds of animals and plants. It is also believed that the cats here are unique to other cats around the world. In addition, the scenery of the inner sea of Lake Biwa is also another highlight of Okishima Island that people tend to fall in love with. Also, many people in Okishima Island try to preserve their way of life and tend to travel by foot and bicycle only.
4. Sanagishima, Kagawa Prefecture
Sanagishima is one of the 28 Shiwaku Islands. It is located in the Seto Inland Sea. Therefore, it has a warm climate all year with little rainfall and provides the best living conditions for all cats. This island became popular in 2001 and is famous for its cat population. Despite the increase in the number of tourists, there are still no shops or restaurants open in Sanagishima Island. Therefore, tourists must take their own food and drinks when visiting Sanagishima Island.
5. Manabeshima Island, Okayama Prefecture
Thanks to its beautiful environment, Manabeshima Island was a popular filming location for Japanese movies. The view from the top of the island is magnificent and is must-see spot when visiting Manabeshima Island. Also, the island is popular among French tourists as the comic writer, Florent Chavouet, wrote about this island in a book called “Manabe Shima.”
Manabeshima Island is also located in the Seto Inland Sea – same as Sanagishima Island. Therefore, its warm climate is perfect for sunbathing, and you will see a lot of cats sunbathing in the sun.
6. Ogijima Island, Kagawa Prefecture
Ogijima Island is also another island in the Seto Inland Sea. There is a lighthouse that was used as a filming location for a Japanese movie. There are several accommodations for tourists on Ogijima Island. Hence, it is another interesting and convenient choice for anyone wanting to visit a cat island.
7. Muzukijima Island, Ehime Prefecture
Muzukijima Island is famous for its oranges. The oranges from this island are regarded as one of the best oranges in Japan. There is a 15-kilometer sightseeing road around this island called, “Muzuki Skyline”. In addition to the orange farm, there are also orange-colored cats that fit the concept of Mukuzijima Island very well.
8. Aoshima Island, Ehime Prefecture
Aoshima Island has a very high cat population. The ratio between cat and human population is 6:1. In the past, the fishermen brought the cats in order to get rid of the rats there. Later, the cat population has increased to 120, while there are only 15-20 people who are still working on the island.
However, Aoshima Island has no accommodation. There are no hotels, restaurants, or even vending machines. There are only two rounds of ferries going to Aoshima Island per day. So, might be a destination for the extremely keen cat lovers out there.
9. Iwaishima Island, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Iwaishima Island is the last island in the Seto Inland Sea. In 1982, the island was introduced as a location for a nuclear plant. However, the local people there were strongly against it with up to more than 1000 people against it. The proposition was finally rejected following the great disaster in 2011.
There is also a traditional boat parade festival called “Kanmai,” which is held every four years (last event: 2016).
10. Ainoshima Island (藍島), Fukuoka Prefecture
Ainoshima (藍島) Island is located in Kitakyushu District, the northern part of Fukuoka. Regarding transportation, this island is the second most convenient following Enoshima Island. The topography of Ainoshima (藍島) Island is mostly flat land. Therefore, it is good for walking and camping. The cats at the island usually gather at the sea port waiting for a fishing boat to arrive with food. Tourists can enjoy watching the cats at the port along with sightseeing at the beach of Ainoshima (藍島) Island.
11. Ainoshima Island (相島), Fukuoka Prefecture
Another cat island named “Ainoshima”, but is written using different Japanese Kanji. It is located in the Shingu District, northwest of Fukuoka. There are more than 100 cats there and the human population number is about 500. Hence, Ainoshima Island (相島) is heaven for these cats. The transportation to Ainoshima island (相島) is also convenient, taking about 20 minutes by ferry.
In 2012, a photographer Fubirai in Fukuoka took a lot of photos of the cats and posted them on his blog. Later on, those photos were shared by BuzzFeed and the island has become famous since then. Nowadays, there are a lot of tourists visiting the island to take photos with the cats.
12. Kakarashima Island, Saga Prefecture
Kakarashima Island is located precisely, the most further north of the Saga Prefecture. The topography there is mostly cliffs; therefore, it may be difficult to travel around the island. On a bright day, you can also see South-Korea from the island.
13. Yushima, Kumamoto Prefecture
Kumamoto Prefecture doesn’t only have the well-known mascot, Kumamon, but also has a ‘cat heaven’ island called “Yushima Island.” This island has a 4-kilometer perimeter, and its topography is fairly steep, so people prefer to walk in order to visit the cats.
Each ‘cat heaven’ island has its own unique point. Some of them might not be convenient regarding accommodation. However, for serious cat lovers, every island is worth visiting. Therefore, good luck and enjoy your trip around Japan’s Cat Islands!