Japan is in reality more of a collection of archipelagos than a single island like Jamaica or Great Britain. Among these many islands, some are atypical to say the least and we would like to introduce you to one of them today. This is Cat Island, its real name Tashirojima.
Where is Tashirojima located?
Tashirojima is a small independent island in Ishinomaki Municipality which lies east of Sendai (see photo below).
How to get to Cat Island?
To get to Tashirojima you can leave from Sendai and take a train towards Ishinomaki which takes about an hour and a half. You can then take a bus from Ishinomaki which will drop you off at Ajishima Line-mae from where you can take the ferry which will head to Cat Island!
Be careful though, buses are rare so we recommend that you look carefully at the timetables before embarking on your expedition. You can possibly go by taxi or on foot for the more sporty. The boat trip then takes about an hour and you will arrive at your destination once you arrive in the second port through which the ferry passes.
Where do Tashirojima cats come from?
As you can imagine, if Tashirojima is called “cat island” it is because there are many, many cats there. But what is especially interesting is to be interested in the origin of cats on this island.
For this we have to go back to the 19th century at the end of the Edo period (1868). At that time one of the main commercial activities on the island was silk making and to be able to protect the silkworms from mice the inhabitants had the good idea of introducing cats there.
They were then fed by passing sailors who took care of them during their stops on the island of Tashirojima. They got to know them and it is even said that they were able to anticipate the weather by looking at their behavior. In the same way that low-flying swallows announce rain, for example.
The cats then prospered until they outnumbered the island's inhabitants four times (around 400 cats per 100 inhabitants). You should also know that the cat, and particularly the Maneki-neko, is a very popular animal because it symbolizes good fortune but also a warm welcome when it is at the entrance to a restaurant. .
What has happened to the cats of Tashirojima Island since the Edo period?
The last part of this article is unfortunately the least joyful because over the last decades the cats have only decreased on the island. Today there are barely thirty of them and we will know without further ado what happened to them.
Although the cat is a popular animal in Japan, the overpopulation of these animals in full freedom eventually got the better of the patience and indulgence of the thirty inhabitants of the island of Tashirojima. In 2014, they asked the relevant authorities to sterilize the cats so that they would no longer thrive within ten years. Seventy-nine animals were then castrated out of the approximately ninety that populated Tashirojima. However, castration is not the cause of the disappearance of so many cats in just six years (ninety in 2014, barely thirty in 2020).
In 2019, as indicated in the article on the Le Point website , bowls with blue substances were found on the island as well as deceased cats in a restricted area . The associations immediately looked into this matter which did not take long to be clarified.
A farmer confessed to wanting to poison crows to keep them away from his potatoes. Unfortunately for him, although he defended himself by saying “I never wanted to harm the cats”, local activists brushed aside this excuse by stating that there were not many crows on Tashirojima and that Given the circumstances, this “blue substance” was clearly intended for cats. Sad fate for the population of “Cat Island”... Fortunately, local associations are looking for a way to move the cats that still remain on the island to allow them to end their lives without blue kibble!
Cat Island therefore no longer has much legitimacy in retaining its title as it was ten years ago.