An idyllic getaway off the east coast of Japan, Tashirojima Island is perfect for visitors looking for a unique destination that is not overrun with tourists. This rural paradise is steeped in tradition, from its small fishing villages to its shrines to the cats that watch over the island and its people.
Cats are probably the most famous thing about Tashirojima — there are more feline residents here than humans! This has given it the nickname “Cat Island”. These furry inhabitants are often more than happy to approach visitors. They might even pose for a photo with you!
There is much more to discover about Tashirojima, from its natural beauty to its manga-inspired lodges. It makes a great day trip or overnight stay from Sendai or Ishinomaki. Find out all the things you can do on Tashirojima Island and how to get there with this quick guide.
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How to get to Tashirojima Island
Tashirojima Island can be found in the Miyagi Prefecture. It is officially part of the city of Ishinomaki, although it is about 20 km offshore in the Pacific Ocean, close to Ajishima Island.
If you are heading to Tashirojima, you will need to get a ferry from the terminal in Ishinomaki on the Kyukitakami River.
Tashirojima and Ishinomaki itself are well worth a visit and can be reached easily if you have a Japan Rail Pass.
You can take the Tohoku Shinkansen line from Tokyo to Sendai. This takes about 4 hours and 20 minutes. You can also use this line to get to Sendai from other major cities like Akita, Morioka, and Shin-Aomori.
Next, change to a local train run by Japan Railways from Sendai to Ishinomaki. These trains run every hour. The journey takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes.
From Ishinomaki Station, it is a 10-15-minute walk or a short taxi ride to the Ajishima Line Chuo ferry pier. The terminal is located just to the south of the Ishinomaki Genki Market and across the river from the Ishinomori Manga Museum.
The ferry ride takes 45-60 minutes and stops at both of Tashirojima’s ports — in the villages at the north and south of the island. A one-way ticket costs about 1250 yen.
You should keep in mind that there are only 3 or 4 ferries a day. Keep an eye on the time if you plan to return to the mainland on the same day! Otherwise, you should reserve a room in advance.
The Cat Island
Tashirojima’s biggest claim to fame is its cats. They vastly outnumber people on the island. There are only around 60 human residents, but way over 100 felines. Some estimates state that cats outnumber people 3:1!
What’s more, they have been roaming free for hundreds of years. Despite being semi-wild, they are comfortable around humans and are usually interested in visitors.
No matter where you go on the island, you’ll come across some furry friends. The biggest kitty congregations usually happen in Nitoda village, particularly around the port and the only store: Kamabutsu Shoten.
Much like Aoshima Island far to the south, Tashirojima has earned the nickname “Cat Island”.
History of Tashirojima and its cats
The story of how Tashirojima became a feline paradise starts in the Edo Period of Japan. At that time, the island’s residents made textiles from silk. To this end, they kept and raised silkworms. Because of mice eating the precious silkworms, people kept cats.
The rodent problem throughout Japan became so bad that the entire silkworm industry was threatened. The shogunate decreed that all cats be released into the wild to hunt the mice. On Tashirojima, the population has thrived and continues to be semi-wild to this day.
Cats are thought to be lucky in Japanese culture, bringing good fortune and wealth. The locals of Tashirojima Island make sure they’re well-fed for this reason.
There is also a rule that dogs are not allowed on the island to protect the local felines.
The cats of Tashirojima gained superstardom with the release of Fuji Terebi’s film Nyanko the Movie, starring a cat named Droopy-Eared Jack who lives on the island. The film is now a franchise and there are special tours for fans to come and “look for Jack” on Tashirojima Island.
What to do on Tashirojima Island
Tashirojima Island is small, but beautiful. Its tranquil setting, sea views, and traditional villages make it a relaxing getaway. There are also several things to see and do that make this island unique:
- Manga Island — a camping resort with a manga theme on the south side of Tashirojima. Stay in a lodge shaped like a cat or stay outdoors on a campsite. Each lodge features cat-themed artwork by famous manga artists, including Shotaro Ishinomori.
- Cat Shrine (Nekokamisama) — dedicated to a cat that died accidentally when struck by a falling rock, this miniature shrine is the perfect size for cats. Locals bring offerings here, and you’ll see many cat-related items left here. It is found in the center of the island, halfway between the 2 villages.
- Hike around Tashirojima — the island only has 2 villages (Odomari and Nitoda), which are linked by narrow roads and walking trails that criss-cross Tashirojima. Take a stroll up the hill, through the woods, and along the coast, taking in the natural beauty.
With relaxing walks and ocean views, Tashirojima is a great place to visit for the day from Ishinomaki or even stop overnight in a guest house or in the Manga Island resort.
However, it is worth noting that the island is largely traditional and there are few tourist facilities other than Manga Island. There are cafés in Nitoda, but no restaurants anywhere on the island.
Visitors are also asked to take their trash with them back to the mainland — littering is strictly prohibited.
Tashirojima has also been dubbed “Manga Island”.
The acclaimed manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori was planning to move to the island, but sadly died before this could happen. However, his memory is honored in the Manga Island camping resort on Tashirojima.
You can come and stay in the cat-shaped lodges and admire the manga artwork that decorates them from July to October each year. The resort is closed on Tuesdays (or Mondays if that Tuesday is a holiday).
Each manga lodge has its own kitchen, toilet, and bathing facilities.
Manga Island is relatively popular for its size, so make sure you book at least 2 weeks in advance.