Tashirojima – Japan’s Awesome Cat Island

If you are a cat lover, you gotta visit one of Japan’s most famous cat islands: Tashirojima

However, the island is in a region that was severely damaged by the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
It was really hard to find any detailed information about the island’s condition post-disaster.

There was only one way to find out! I had to go myself to get some first-hand information!
Now I can finally provide some valid information in English for anybody who is interested in visiting! smilie


History of Tashirojima:

Tashirojima (田代島) is a small island and belongs to Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture.
Nowadays it’s also known as “Cat Island” (猫島 or 猫の島). That’s because there are more cats than human residents!
On top of that the majority of the (human) population is over 65 years old! There aren’t many young people. The only elementary school had to close down in 1989. To make the island more attractive for younger people the city decided to make a tourist attraction out of it.
The only thing that the island had to offer were all the cats …. and there we go!
It was promoted on TV as “Cat Island” and became very popular among cat lovers.

But how come there are so many cats on an island that can only be reached by ferry?
Today the island’s main industry is fishing. However, during the late Edo Period (江戸時代, 1603-1868) silkworms for making silk were raised on the island. As mice are a natural enemy of silkworms and became a real pest, the residents depended on cats to get rid of the problem.

Cat on Cat Island, Tashirojima, Japan

Later fishermen populated the island and fed the cats, observing their behavior to predict storms and other odd weather situations. Cats were seen as bringers of good luck! A cat shrine has been built on the island and dogs or any other animal that could harm the cats are not allowed to come to the island!

Why should I visit?

Well, I hope that after reading through this post, you’ll have enough motivation to visit. ^-^;
And don’t you want to see the cats that survived the tsunami?
After all, for a few days people all over the world (even in Japan) thought that the whole island was gone (washed away by the tsunami).
If you haven’t watched the movies “Nyanko” (にゃんこ) yet, then maybe you should – and if it’s just for the neko cuteness. smilie
What made me personally want to go were the Tofugu videos (Part 1 / Part 2) that were taken pre-tsunami.

Enjoy and please spread the word! smilie

Visited: May 1st 2012

Ajishima Line Ferry Terminal, Ishinomaki, Tashirojima, Cat Island

How to Access “Cat Island”

You can access Tashirojima only by ferry. The ferry terminal is in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
You can access JR Ishinomaki Station by local train coming from Sendai. From Tokyo you can take a Shinkansen to Sendai first and then take a local train to Ishinomaki. Check the timetable and fare with Hyperdia.

From Ishinomaki Station you can take a bus (~ 250 yen, 18 mins) and get off at “Kadowaki 2-chome” (門脇2丁目). In order to catch the 9 a.m. ferry, take the bus that leaves at 8:30 in front of the JR station.
You can also take a taxi (~ 1100 yen, 15 mins). Walking would take about 30 minutes.

The ferry timetable changes fairly often, so you need to check the Ajishima Line (網地島ライン) homepage!
It’s all in Japanese, so I made a graphic that will help you read / understand the ferry schedule.
If you still need help, don’t hesitate to ask me. smilie

The ferry terminal has small coin lockers and a toilet. The ferry also has a toilet.

Ajishima Line Ferry Terminal, Ishinomaki, Tashirojima, Cat Island

There are different types of ferries. The cutest one is the one with the mermaid on it. As you can see the ferry is quite small.

The trip to Tashirojima takes about 40 minutes.

Tashirojima, Cat Island

There are two ports in Tashirojima (田代島) where you can get off:
Coming from Ishinomaki the ferry will first stop at Odomari (大泊), but I highly recommend you get off at the second stop (roughly 8 minutes later): Nitoda, (仁斗田).


Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island

Nitoda Port Area

We arrived at Nitoda (仁斗田) Port around 10 a.m.

Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island, damage through tsunami 2011

The first thing I saw was the big pile of garbage.
Ishinomaki as well as Tashirojima got damaged badly due to the tsunami caused by the big earthquake in March 2011.

Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island, damage through tsunami 2011

Most cats and the people survived the tsunami. The majority of the houses are at a higher altitude (as you’ll see later in this post), so the tsunami couldn’t reach them.
The cats were extremely disturbed prior to the big earthquake and tsunami. I’m sure they could feel something was wrong.

Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island

The port area is currently not as beautiful as it used to be due to all the garbage around, but they made the best out of it.

Note: On the cat-shaped sign they’re thanking all the visitors who are coming even after the disaster.

Nitoda Port, Tashirojima, Cat Island

As mentioned earlier the fishermen are really fond of the cats and consider them as good-luck charms, so they feed them with fish they caught.
As dogs are not allowed it’s a true paradise for the cats!

Speaking of cats ….. where were they? ….

Cats on Tashirojima, Cat Island

After walking for about 5 minutes, I was still in the port area. There I ran into the first one that was hiding under a small construction work crane.

Cats on Tashirojima, Cat Island Tashirojima, Cat Island

It was a very short encounter, though, as it was hiding quickly. The funny thing was that it took a while until the cat got its body through the hole. Quite an amusing sight!
From the port you can easily access “Manga Island” and from there the “Cat Shrine“.

While the cat shrine is between Nitoda and Odomari, Manga Island is very close to Nitoda Port – which is why I recommend getting off there!

Tashirojima, Cat Island

On my way to “Manga Island” I ran into a few cats … and this magnificent cat statue!!!
It was created by students of the “Tokyo University of Arts” in 2010.
It was HUGE and as you can see it consisted of many smaller cats! A brilliant idea!


Tashirojima, Cat Island

Manga Island

Manga Island is on a hill, so you’ll hike up a little. It’s a very pleasant way up!
Maybe now you can understand why everybody was safe! Most of the residents’ houses are on hills that are higher than 10m above sea level!
The view from up there was breathtaking!!!
A little island … with more cats than people …. and with such an awesome view!!
Doesn’t that sound like paradise???? I could totally imagine living there after retirement … but then again it’s a bit far away from everything ^-^; ….

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

And then I finally reached “Manga Island” (マンガアイランド).

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

But what is that so-called Manga Island? Didn’t I visit “Cat Island“? Are you confused now??
Well, “Manga Island” is a small area on the top of a hill on Tashirojima (Cat Island).

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

There are a few extremely cute buildings that look like cats.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

Those buildings were built in 2000 and are camping lodges that can be used from April to November. However at the time of my visit it wasn’t possible to book a stay there – I think it had to do with the damage by the tsunami.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

If you want to stay longer than just a few hours on Cat Island, then where else would you want to stay?? That’s your best choice!

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

And what’s more is that you’ll get an awesome view from up there!

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

Those cute cat-shaped buildings were designed by the famous Shotaro Ishinomori. His mentor was Osamu Tezuka!
There’s the “Ishinomori Manga Museum” in Ishinomaki City – it was still closed due to damage by the time I visited, though.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

If you have a closer look at any of the buildings you’ll find so many cute details!


Behind the buildings there’s a small area where you can buy food, drinks and some souvenirs.
At the time of my visit that was the only place where you could get something. They also mentioned that it was the only place to get souvenirs.
It is recommended that you bring your own food and drinks!

The people working there were really nice and young! I really expected to only see old people … and cats! *g* I had a nice chat with them.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island Tashirojima, Cat Island, Manga Island

Even the toilet there was cat-themed, featuring cat scribblings on the female toilet wall!


Cats on Tashirojima, Cat Island

The Cat Shrine

From Manga Island you can continue walking towards the “Cat Shrine“.
On my way I ran into a few more cats, of course!

Tashirojima Elementary School, Cat Island

This building used to be Tashirojima Elementary School. It was closed down in 1989 and turned into an educational center. The educational center closed in 2008. I guess that’s what happens when there are more cats than people and on top of that mostly older people.

Tashirojima Elementary School, Cat Island

Nobody was there when I visited, so I’m not sure if this building is still used at all, but it surely didn’t look like it!

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Cat Shrine

And then I finally arrived at the Cat Shrine (猫神社)!
The fishermen who grew fond of the cats a long time ago built that shrine.
What happened is that one day a rock fell down and killed one of the cats. The fishermen decided to bury it and enshrined it there, praying that never ever something similar would happen again.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Cat Shrine

It’s a fairly small shrine, but you’ll find tons of cat related tiny items like those Maneki Neko statues.

Of course you can’t have a cat shrine without Hello Kitty! ^^

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Cat Shrine Tashirojima, Cat Island, Cat Shrine

The sign on the left explains in greater detail about the cat that was hit by a rock. The first sentence shows how much the residents of the island respect the cats of Tashirojima:



Tashirojima, Cat Island, Odomari Port

Odomari Port Area

The cat shrine is between the two ports of Tashirojima. As I still had time, I figured I could as well visit the other port: Odomari.
The characters next to the area map were created by the one who designed the cat buildings on Manga Island, Shotaro Ishinomori. They are characters from his series “Cyborg 009“.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Odomari

Apart from a beautiful view there’s not too much to see in Odomari, so if you’re short on time I suggest you go back after visiting the Cat Shrine!
There was a small shrine right at the port area, though.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Odomari Tashirojima, Cat Island, Odomari

I was surprised to still see Tsubaki (椿, camellia) around that time of the year!

The shrine was really small and I could tell that almost nobody recently came here.
I had it all for myself!

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Odomari

A shoe in the sand. Although everybody survived the tsunami, houses were destroyed and belongings were washed away by the high waves.

As there wasn’t anything else to do I went back to Nitoda Port.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Nitoda, damage by tsunami 2011

This used to be a restroom. That’s all that’s left after the tsunami hit.


Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

Cat Hunting

As I still had time I decided to go cat-hunting. I hadn’t seen so many cats yet, but I knew they HAD to be somewhere. And I was right! *g*

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

Just a little advice: you might have more luck if you walk into some of the narrow side streets instead of staying on the main road!

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

Most cats didn’t care that there were tourists coming from far away just to see them. Why should they?
They did what they always do: sleeping, eating, chilling …

But that’s ok, that’s what we cat lovers want to see! ^-^

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

Others were busy cleaning themselves. They didn’t even bother that there were people taking photos of them.
Well, some were shy and ran away, but most of them weren’t.

Tashirojima, Cat Island

I also passed by what usually is the only shop where you can purchase food or drinks, but at that time nobody was there.

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

The residents have created little “apartments” for the cats everywhere, so they can live there without having to worry about anything.

Tashirojima, Cat Island

And you’ve probably started to wonder where the masses of cats are?
Well, there definitely are a lot of cats, but you gotta find them! It’s not like there are so many that you will run into them at each and every corner!

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

The horny cat. And it was really persistent!

It didn’t give up, but the black cat kept running away! *g*

Cats of Tashirojima, Cat Island

A beautiful cat observing the others while chilling.

Tashirojima, Cat Island

If you now think that you’d only run into cats on Cat Island, then I have to disappoint you! ^-^;

Tashirojima, Cat Island, damage by tsunami 2011

People are still constantly repairing all the damage caused by the tsunami everywhere in Japan, also here on Tashirojima.

Tashirojima, Cat Island Tashirojima, Cat Island

Tashirojima has a few smaller shrines on hills from where you have a great view of the ocean!
If you have time, definitely climb up and enjoy it!

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Nitoda

And then I was back at the port to catch my ferry. A last encounter with one of the cats before I left.

Tashirojima, Cat Island, Nitoda

I left with the “Blue Liner” – the same ferry type I came with. I didn’t get to ride the cute mermaid ferry after all.

In the afternoon I decided to explore Ishinomaki City a little.


  • I’m leaving for Japan in 12 days! WOOHOO! It’ll be my second trip over there, but I am only marginally better at the language and this time I’ll be going without a translator. We’re making a special trip to visit Tashirojima and I’m so glad I found this post. Your travel advice was really helpful and welcomed! Thanks for all the tips :)

  • Hey could you tell me what the ferry schedules are for both the 15th and 17th of May? I would appreciate the most accurate information possible. Thank you very much.

    • Sure. The new timetable is finally out!

      Three ferries are leaving from Ishinomaki: 9:00, 12:00 and 15:30

      Three ferries are going back to Ishinomaki: 7:40 (7:46), 14:12 (14:18), 15:33 (15:35)
      The first time refers to Nitoda, the second time to Odomari. You’re more likely to use Nitoda Port.

      Hope that helped. :D
      Enjoy Tashirojima!~

  • […] I’ll stop briefly in Nagasaki (I feel a trip to Hiroshima would be incomplete without one here, and vice-versa) before hiking for at least three days in Yakushima, a crazy-beautiful national park on the southern part of Kyushu. Then, I’ll make a complete u-turn and speed up to Sendai, for the sole purpose of visiting another animal-infested island – this one has cats. […]

  • Hi! Thank you for this post – it’s amazing and it’s made me want to go to Cat Island too!

    I will be in Japan from 15-24 Dec, and was hoping if I could get help on understanding the ferry timetable! Will you be able to help me? ^-^

    Once again, great post! Thank you for sharing such precious information and pictures with us!

    • I would love to help you with the timetable but currently they only have the one until Dec 12th out, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
      Also, a word of warning: Miyagi Prefecture gets a lot of snow in winter, so just be prepared for that! ;)

      Thanks, glad you liked the article! ^__^

      • Thank you for replying me, I really appreciate it ^_^

        I was trying to use Chrome to translate the page but I had no idea what was going on even after it was translated! Is the timetable on this page?:

        I noticed that the date changed! Could it be that they’ve updated it?

        Nevertheless, I’m having a ball of a time reading through the articles on your blog. Keeping me really hyped about the trip!

        • Yes, that’s the timetable and they’ve finally updated it. As you can see there are 3 ferries going to and leaving from Ishinomaki during that time.
          Let me know if you need help with it. :)

          • Oh gosh I am not sure if I am reading the schedule correctly! I think I can see which times are the ones where the ferry leaves Ishinomaki but I can’t figure out the return timings!

            Could you tell me the timings for the ferry that leaves Ishinomaki for Nitoda, and timings for the returning ferry from Nitoda to Ishinomaki?

            Thank you so much for helping out! I truly appreciate it.

          • Ishinomaki – Nitoda:
            9:00 – 9:46
            12:00 – 13:04
            15:30 – 16:16

            Nitoda – Ishinomaki:
            7:40 – 8:29
            14:12 – 15:00
            15:33 – 16:46

            Hope that helps. :)
            If anyobdy else is reading this. This is only the timetable for December 2014!

  • Thank you so much! It will definitely help me!

    Can’t wait to see Cat Island for myself. Thank you so much for letting us know about it!

  • Thank you for your lovely article and all the photos. I really want to visit cat island next time I am fortunate enough to visit Japan. Your article is very inspiring and informative!

  • Wow, what a great post! I definitely want to go to the island sometime.
    Do you mind if I use some of your pictures on my own blog? I will of course include a link to your original post.

  • Hi! We are wanting to travel to cat island on the 14th of August but worry because it is around festival time and we cannot read japanese😊 are you able to tell us if there is a ferry on the day and what times it comes and goes?
    Thanks very very much in advance! We are lost trying to plan 😅

    • Hello! :)

      Leaving from Ishinomaki at: 9:00, 11:00, 12:15, 14:20 and 16:45
      Leaving from Nitoda Port: 7:40, 10:32, 12:52, 15:42, 16:13
      Leaving from Odomari Port: 7:46, 12:58, 16:18

      Hope that helps.

      • “2015/8/11 @ 18:16

        Leaving from Ishinomaki at: 9:00, 11:00, 12:15, 14:20 and 16:45
        Leaving from Nitoda Port: 7:40, 10:32, 12:52, 15:42, 16:13
        Leaving from Odomari Port: 7:46, 12:58, 16:18”

        Just wondering how accurate is this information still. My kanji is bad, but it looked like the schedule is quite different than what I read online in June, then again a few days ago. I’m simply wondering because I’m slated to go here next week from Sendai.

        I can see 0900, but not much after that. But again, I’m running off of Google translate, and I know it is borking up quite a bit.

        • Hi,
          The ferry schedule changes quite often.
          What exactly do you want to know?
          (Small hint, I have added the kanji to the port names in this blog entry, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out the ferry schedule even without Google translation. ;))

          • To cat island from ishinomaki. It may be moot if this hurricane doesn’t clear out by tomorrow I’ll likely have to forgo the trip entirely.

          • Leaving Ishinomaki at 9:00, 12:00 and 15:30.
            Japan doesn’t have hurricanes, but it’s still typhoon season. Don’t even ask how many times I had to completely reschedule and cancel things because of that. :(
            Wish you good luck and a safe trip! :)

  • Hi,
    My boyfriend and I have been travelling Japan since the beginning of September and we are planning on spending tomorrow night at the manga cabins on Cat Island. We are currently in Sendai and I am just trying to schedule the train from Sendai station and the ferry ride so we get there in time. Any assistance you can give us with navigating the Japanese ferry page would be great. We will likely take the JR train to Ishinomaki station then hop a cab ( to make sure that we don’t get lost :) ) . If you can respond to my email that would be great :) Also thank you for your blog – it has been really helpful for our travels – we have been to 11 Japanese cities so far and are going to three more before we return to Canada !! – Devon

    • Hi Devon,
      I think the kanji I provied in the article for each port will already help you in navigating through the ferry website.
      I’m not exactly sure what kind of information you need, but the ferry leaves Ishinomaki tomorrow at 9:00, 12:00 and 15:30.

  • Hi! I totally love your blog, i always come here to find ideas for my planned (second!) travel to japan!
    I saw in the comments someone else already asked if it was somewhat possible making it a day travel from Tokyo to Tashirojima and that you mentioned that might be tricky and we should be kinda sure about the ferrets and being in a period in which there are many, in such case..
    Well, i’m here to ask you if maybe (just maybe), by any chance, you knew a website in which is possible to view ferrets hours from Ishinomaki to Tashirojima and back, of course..?
    Specificately i’m planning my travel for next summer, July to be precise, if this can be of any help in finding answers!

    • Hi Haru,
      You might have scrolled through this blog post too fast. I’ve linked to the ferry schedule with an English explanation / translation. So it’s easy to understand. ^^
      The only problem with the ferry schedule is that it’s changing very often and you won’t know what it’s like in July next year. :(
      I suggest looking again a few weeks before you plan to head there.

    • AMG! My bad >w<"
      Super thanks for reminding me of that ♥
      I'll make sure not to do any baka mistakes like that in the future! At least i'll try my best, ganbarimasu!
      Wish you to have a great day, and again huge thanks :3

  • Konnichiwa! Thank you so much for sharing all these information.

    Would you think it’s possible if we squeeze in both Fox Village and Tashirojima in one day? Say, we go to Fox Village very early, get to Ishinomaki just in time for the last ferry. Would there be any accommodation that we can get on the island itself?

    Hontou ni arigatou gozaimashita!

    • Hello Kasuy,
      Yes, there’s accommodation available on Tashirojima. I recommend the cat-shaped lodging, though I’ve never stayed there myself.
      I’ve never been to the Fox Village, but I just looked up the transportation. If you use public transportation, it might be possible if you leave the Fox Village early enough that day.

      But it gets dark early in Japan, so it might be better to explore Tashirojima the next day.

      Enjoy the trip. ^^

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