Japan's 11 Cat Islands April 03 2017

You may have heard of Japan's 'Cat Island', but what you may not know is that there are almost a dozen of them.

Each island has it's own unique charm, with a community of cats and the people who look after them. Some have small fishing settlements and entire towns, while others are quite isolated. They all definitely have one thing is common...cats, cats and more cats! 

1. Enoshima (Kanagawa)

Enoshima Island is located Southwest of Tokyo and is the closest cat island to Tokyo. It's a popular summer destination for the Japanese to go for a day trip to swim, sunbathe and relax on the island's beaches. There is also a Dragon God shrine located in a cave where many visitors go to pray for their love. 

Enoshima Island's cat population has steadily grown since the 1980's when many people left their cats behind. It is one of the busiest islands, so be sure to visit it off season if you want uninterrupted time with the cats.

 

2. Okishima (Shiga)

Okishima is a floating island in the middle of Lake Biwa - the largest freshwater depository in Japan. Lake Biwa is considered the third oldest lake in the world with incredible biodiversity. There are 58 different kinds of living things that can be found there but not in other places.

It is also believed that the cats here are unique to other cats around the world. The beauty of the inner sea of Lake Biwa is another reason is it worth visiting. Cat's and stunning scenery, does it get any better than that?

 

3. Sanagishima (Kagawa)

Sanagishima lies of the coast of Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture that makes up the northeast corner of the island of Shikoku. To access the island you have to catch a boat from Tadotsu Port. The island has a very mild climate, which has made it ideal for cats to settle and bread.

 

4. Aoshima (Ehime)

Aoshima might be the most sparsely populated of Japan’s Cat Islands, with just 15 permanent residents compared to several times as many felines. The ratio between cat and human population is 6:1.

Originally, fisherman would bring and leave cats in order to reduce the rat population on the island. There is no accommodation, restaurants or even stores to buy goods, so be sure to pack supplies when visiting. 

 

5. Muzukijima (Ehime)

While most of Japan's Cat Islands are home to fishing communities, Muzukijima instead is covered with citrus groves and has a reputation for growing some of the tastiest oranges in Japan. As well as the oranges themselves, there is a large amount of orange cats to be found on the island. Seems quite fitting, and a ginger-cat-lovers dream!

 

6. Manabeshima (Okayama)

31 kilometers (19 mi) off the coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu, is Manabeshima Island. It is one of the more isolated islands, therefor it's natural beauty has been well preserved. Due to it's natural beauty and warm climate, the island has been a popular destination as a filming location for many Japanese movies.

The view from the top of the island is magnificent and is must-see spot when visiting Manabeshima Island.

 

7. Iwaishima (Yamaguchi)

On the last stop in the Inland Sea, visitors arrive at Iwaishima at the end of a stretch of island-hopping that begins at the port in the historic town of Yanai. 

In 1982, the island was introduced as a location for a nuclear plant. However, the local people there were strongly apposed to it with up to more than 1000 people voting against it. The proposition was finally rejected following the great disaster in 2011.

 

8. Aijima (Fukuoka)

Next up is Aijima which is located on country’s opposite coastline, next to the Sea of Japan. Aijima is one of the easiest-to-access Cat Islands for busy travelers, as the Shinkansen bullet train stops just a few minutes’ walk from where visitors can catch a boat at Kokura Port.

 

9. Aishima (Fukuoka)

Also in Fukuoka, the name of vaguely heart-shaped Aishima is, sadly, not written with the same kanji character as ai, or love. Nonetheless, the island’s romantic topography does seem to be having an influence on its feline population, if these photos are anything to go by. 

 

10. Genkaishima (Fukuoka)

Another easy-to-access Cat Island is Genkaishima, which can be reached from Hakata Port, in Fukuoka City. Genkaishima was home to Japan’s largest island-based cat population until the community was hit hard by an earthquake in 2005. The number of felines is now said to be on the rise once again.

 

11. Kadarashima (Saga)

Finally we come to Kakarashima Island. Kakarashima is the furthest north island of the Saga Prefecture. The landscape there is mostly cliffs, therefor it can be difficult to travel around the island. On a bright day, you can also see South-Korea from the island.