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.

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 end April to October (closed on selected days). Overnight stays are possible from Wednesday through Sunday, except in July and August when it is possible everyday. Reservations should 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.

Getting there and around

Boats to Tashirojima depart from the Ajishima Line Chuo ferry pier up the river, just south of the Ishinomaki Genki Market, across the water from the Ishinomori Manga Museum. The pier can be reached from Ishinomaki Station in a 10-15 minute walk or short taxi ride (around 700 yen one way). The ferries then stop at one more pier a kilometer further downriver before they start their journey across the sea.

Most ferries are bound for Ajishima Island, stopping off at Tashirojima Island along the way where they serve Odomari and Nitoda ports. The one way ferry ride takes about 45-60 minutes and costs 1250 yen to either port. There are 3-4 round trips per day.

How to get to and around Ishinomaki