You like cats?
You know about those fancy cat cafés and you’ve visited Tama already?
Well, good for you. But there’s actually a lot more to do and see for cat lovers in Japan.
One of my favorite things to do is visiting cat islands.
Yes, you got that right. PLURAL, as in more than one.
I know that “Tashirojima” is extremely famous as THE “Cat Island Japan”, but it’s by far not the only one.
Today I want to introduce yet another cat island that’s worth checking out: Ainoshima.
Access to Ainoshima:
The famous cat island Tashirojima is located in Miyagi Prefecture, Tohoku (map). If you’re pretty much on the other side of Japan, then Ainoshima (相島) might be a better option for you as it’s in Kyushu – Fukuoka to be more precise (map).
And it’s really not that far from Hakata Station, Fukuoka’s main train station.
Just take a local train and get off at Nishitetsu Shingu Station.
From there you have to get to Shingu Port. There’s a community bus (100 yen per ride) that’ll take you to the port in about 20 minutes.
As the bus runs very infrequently I actually walked to the port. It’s not a big deal. I think it took me less than 30 minutes.
At Shingu Port you’ll take a ferry (see photo above) to Ainoshima. You can see the timetable here.
On the left column (相島発) you can see when the ferry leaves Ainoshima, the right column (新宮発) displays the time when the ferry will leave from Shingu Port heading to the cat island. The ferry ride will take about 17 minutes and costs 480 yen for an adult.
Inside the ferry it’s quite comfortable.
Interesting Spots on Ainoshima:
Ainoshima is a really small island (1.25km²) with around 500 inhabitants. Most of them are fishermen. You can actually walk the whole island if you want to. It’s a few kilometers from one spot to another and you’ll discover cats here and there. It’s up to you if you want to explore the entire island.
The map above shows Ainoshima’s historical sites. And I’ll introduce the most interesting spots of the island.
As you can see it’s a nice island. Just stroll around and you’ll run into cats.
These houses were close to the port. A really lovely scenery, isn’t it?
Have you ever seen that in Japan before? It’s actually very common.
The water bottles are supposed to keep cats away e.g. from your garden. Seems like it’s especially necessary on a cat island.
You’d think it’s a cat heaven, but is it really? There are links containing more background information towards the end of this article.
The port area of the island.
A few small fishing boats. It’s always a good spot to check for cats!
There’s not a single inhabited island in Japan that doesn’t have at least one or two tiny shrines.
A bit away from the port (~ 2 km) is a beautiful coastal area.
Can you see the “Megane Iwa” (めがね岩, glasses rock)?
There’s even a onsen (hot spring), but apparently it can only be used in summer (夏だけ温泉), so I didn’t get to try it.
Besides the cats the other attraction worth checking out are the Ainoshima Stone Tumuli (相島積石塚群).
They date back to the 5th century.
You can find them right at the beautiful coastline, just follow the signs.
But be careful, all the signs are in Japanese only. Just try to remember the kanji for it I mentioned earlier.
The Cats of Ainoshima:
But now let’s move on to the main attraction of Ainoshima: THE CATS!!
If you’re just coming for the cats, you’ll find the majority of them at and around the port.
Some of them were chilling a few hundred meters away where it was really quiet.
It also depends on the time of the day. There weren’t that many cats at the port when I arrived.
However, later that day, when I was coming back from my long walk surrounding almost the whole island, there were a lot more.
Look! The cats even have their own TV! But they don’t seem to care! ;)
Some people brought cat food to lure them to take better photos. *g*
But be careful! You’ll be surrounded by a bunch of cats in no time and they’ll haunt you even in your dreams. *g*
Lining up and waiting for you to take photos of them.
Cat kiss, cat greeting. Aww.
Yes, I admit it. I also brought some cat food. In fact, I always carry a bit of dried cat snacks with me.
Especially when I go to castle parks, there are always many stray cats, so I can feed them if I have the feeling that they’re hungry.
Awesome faces! Gimme more!
And this cat was chilling right next to my backpack pretty much the whole time.
Not convinced yet? Really?!
Then also check out the following links with even more photos and background information:
- The feral felines of Cat Heaven Island – The Japan Times (Is it really a cat heaven?)
- Neko ni ai ni ikou (Fubirai has been documenting the everyday life of Ainoshima’s cats)
I haven’t been on a cat island yet, but this one might actually be doable on my next trip :)
Oh, where are you going this time? (*__*)
I’ll take the new Hokuriku Shinkansen and then head down to Kyushu :)
I figured that much. :D
I mean, where in Kyushu are you planning to go? (*___*) (Take me with you! *g*)
No idea yet, working on that part. I’m taking my partner so I kinda want to show him the best parts (also autumn leaves!) but also see something new. So maybe Beppu (1 night), Kurokawa Onsen (during the day only), Aso (1 night), Takachiho, Kumamoto (1N), Kagoshima (1N), down to Mt. Kaimon (I think), up through Nagasaki (1N) and maybe Unzen. I haven’t really looked at the logistics of it and it all depends on how long we spend in Hokuriku and Kyoto (autumn leaves!!!).
For Unzen I recommend a rental car. There was a little onsen town called Obama nearby where I wished I could have stayed for a bit.
Can’t wait to hear about Kurokawa Onsen and Mt. Kaimon – hope you really go! Haven’t been there yet. :D
Yup, plan do all of it by rental car. Thanks for the tip with Obama ;)
I heard about these cat islands and I want to go. I will be in Japan over the summer (if all goes well) for about 2 weeks. Is is possible to visit if I am flying into Tokyo or is it too far away? We have cat cafes here in Beijing and I have a cat, so I think it would be kind of fun to see the islands. :)
Ainoshima is in Kyushu, so it’s too far away from Tokyo.
Instead you could go to Tashirojima.
I heard that Enoshima – which is REALLY close – has a lot of cats as well, but I didn’t see any when I visited many years ago.
Thanks for the tip and the link, I will see if I have time and try to go to Tashirojima. :)
If you go, I’m sure you’ll love it! ^-^
Hmm I got soft spot for cats :)
I wonder how come Japan has all the interesting islands.. cats, rabbits, you name it they got it :)
Well, each of those islands has their own history and explains how the animals came to and spread throughout the island. ;)
Silkworms for Tashirojima, chemical weapon testing for Okunoshima (though that’s just a theory) … etc.
Thanks for the input on Ainoshima. I’m thinking of visiting my friend who studying in Fukuoka.
So a trip to Ainoshima will be fun.
But may I know if half day trip there is doable? Or would the journey cost a whole day?
For three days in Fukuoka, I’m planning to visit the wisteria in Kitakyushu, Ainoshima and the central Fukuoka city…
If you take the very first ferry, then it is possible to do it in half a day. Just make sure to check when the next ferry goes back. If you miss one, you might have to wait for quite a while. ;)
You don’t have to walk around the entire island. Most cats are near the port anyways. ;)
You know that you can only see the wisteria in late April / early May, right? :)
Thank you so much for writing this post with clear instructions on how to get to Ainoshima! we had a great day on the island and were sad to leave when the last boat came into port.
I’m so glad to hear that! ^____^
[…] on the plane, and my stomach felt so funny since yesterday and a bit headache, I asked ciMel to go Ainoshima not too early. We agreed to go a bit later and stay there for 1 or two hours […]