Tashirojima (田代島) is a small, rural island off the coast of central Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture. Informally known as "Cat Island", Tashirojima is inhabited by several hundred felines, which are cared for and worshiped by the island's human residents. The cats were originally brought over to help with pest control around the island's silkworm farms, and since then their numbers have increased to the point that they now outnumber the island's aging human population by almost four to one.
Cat lovers from all around come to visit Tashirojima, which requires taking a one hour long ferry ride from central Ishinomaki. The boats stop at both of the island's settled areas: a tiny village around Odomari Port in the north and a larger, more developed village around Nitoda Port in the south. Several narrow roads and walking trails crisscross the forested island's interior between the two villages.
Tashirojima was affected by the 2011 tsunami which partially flooded both villages and destroyed several buildings around the port towns which were close to the coast. Luckily the island's location behind a peninsula helped protect it from more severe damage, and the majority of the debris was cleared within a year.
Fishing has long been an important industry on Tashirojima. For ages the fishermen who worked on the island cared for and protected the semi-wild cats because they believed that the cats would bring them good luck. Following this tradition, they built the small, cat-sized Cat Shrine (Nekokamisama), at the center of the island in dedication to a cat that was accidentally killed by a falling rock. The shrine can be found along the road about halfway between Odomari and Nitoda villages.
The cats on Tashirojima are mostly found around Nitoda Port on the southeastern side of the island. They freely roam the streets and seem to enjoy the attention that they get from the tourists who photograph and play with them. The cats sometimes gather around the steps of the island's lone store, Kamabutsu Shoten, which is located in the northwestern part of Nitoda village.
Tashirojima is also known as "Manga Island", due to a manga themed camping resort built on the southern tip of the island. The resort consists of several cottages shaped like cats that feature cat themed artwork drawn by famous manga artists such as Ishinomori Shotaro, Chiba Tetsuya and Kimura Naomi. Each unit has a kitchen, toilet and bathing facilities, and campsites are also available. The resort is open from April to October (closed on Tuesdays, or Monday if Tuesday is a holiday), and reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.
Be aware that Tashirojima does not have many tourist facilities. There are a small number of minshuku around Nitoda Port, however there are no restaurants, and very few shops or public toilets available on the island. A drink vending machine and a public toilet are located along the Nitoda waterfront at the Fisheries Development Center. Visitors are asked to carry home all the garbage they produce on the island.
Get There and Around
Infrequent buses operate from Ishinomaki Station to the Ajishima Line-mae bus stop in front of the Ajishima Line ferry terminal. Alternatively, the ferry terminal is about a 30 minute walk or 10 minute taxi ride (about 1000 yen) from the station. From there, the Ajishima Line ferries operate to Tashirojima Island stopping off at Odomari and Nitoda ports along the way to Ajishima Island (Odomari Port is not served by ferries through July 2017 due to construction works). The one way trip takes about 45-60 minutes and costs 1230 yen to either port. There are three departures per day. Tickets are purchased on board the ship.