What is cat island?
Cat Island, aka Tashirojima / Tashiro Island, is a little island off the coast of Ishinomaki in the Miyagi prefecture in Japan. The islands main inhabitants are cats, with a cat shrines, and cat-themed cars making it a cat-lovers paradise. As of October 2013, the island had about 15 people living on, with one store and a vending machine.
Tashirojima is also home to Manga Island, made by the famous mangaka Shotaro Ishinomori. Manga Island has buildings shaped like cats, that you can sometimes stay in. During the 2011 earthquake, Tashirojima was flooded and several buildings got destroyed. According to a local, due to the earthquake, the island sank an inch closer to sea level. As of October 2013, most of the damaged buildings and debris was gone.
Travelling to the Island
To get to cat island, you will need to take a ferry. These ferries take about 40 minutes. The ferries are pretty standard, and there’s nothing really special about them.
The Cats of Cat Island
Soon as you’re off the ferry and leaving the harbour, you will start spotting cats.
Some will hide behind buoys near the harbourside…
Others will be wandering around in pairs
And some will be sleeping
If you wish to, you can take some cat food with you to feed the cats. You can pick some up at most supermarkets or 100 yen stores before you head off to Ishinomaki.
While wandering around you may spot one of the cute cat buses.
and then you’ll spot even more cats,
and some kittens.
The Cat Shrine
As you wander towards the north of the Island, you’ll come across the Cat Shrine (Neko Jinja, 猫神社). This shrine was made by fishermen who believed that the cats on the island will bring them good luck. Over the years, people have left different figures and trinkets at the shrine including a Hello Kitty. The shrine is located about 1.6km from the ferry landing point.
As mentioned earlier, Manga Island is an area on Tashirojima that created by Shotaro Ishinomori. Shotaro Ishinomori is a famous Mangaka, who created Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009. This area of the island has a lot of cat-shaped houses. It is possible to book a stay on Manga Island. For more information on how to stay on Manga Island, visit http://www.city.ishinomaki.lg.jp/cont/10452000b/-kanko/-kankomap/d0040/20130224150619.html (Only available in Japanese).
While there isn’t really much here except cat houses, you may spot some more cats en route so the wander over to Manga Island is worth it.
Street view of Manga Island
How to get to cat island?
Due to damage caused to Ishinomaki during the 2011 earthquake, getting to Cat Island became quite difficult but in the last few years, trains have become more frequent, making it easier to visit.
Firstly you’ll need to get to Ishinomaki. If you are coming from Tokyo, you can take the Shinkansen to Sendai, and from there switch to the Senseki-Tohoku line. If your arrival time in Sendai is spot on, it is possible to catch the train to Ishinomaki with 10 to 20 minutes transfer time. But if you miss the next train to Ishinomaki, you’ll have to wait for 1 hour or longer for the next one.
The train time between Tokyo and Ishinomaki is normally between 3 to 4 hours.
Next, you need to get from Ishinomaki station to the Ajishima Line ferry terminal. There are 3 ways of getting to the ferry terminal; by bus, walking or taxi. Infrequent buses leave from Ishinomaki Station. If you do not know Japanese, trying to figure out when these buses leave is uite difficult as the bus timetables are not in English. Walking from Ishinomaki Station to the ferry terminal is a 2.2km walk, which takes about 30 minutes. Taxis take about 10 minutes and cost around 1000 yen.
Once you arrive at the Ajishima Line ferry terminal, you will need to get on a boat that goes to Tashirojima. Boats travel to and from Tashirojima 3 times a day, and due to the lack of accommodation on the island, you will need to make sure you don’t miss the last boat back.
As of December 2017, the ferry costs 1230yen each way for foot passengers. Current pricing is viewable here (http://ajishimaline.com/about.html#goriyou) under the column labelled: “石巻” (Ishinomaki). Timetables are available at http://ajishimaline.com/index.html.
How to read the Ajishima line ferry timetable:
The first half of the timetable is going from Ishinomaki to Tashirojima. The important columns are the purple, blue and bright green columns.
1. The 2nd purple column and labelled “田代島・網地島 鮎川行き” contains the name of the boat you need to take. These are ブルーライナー (Buru Raina, or Blue Liner), マーメイド (Maamaido, or Mermaid), and みゅう(Myuu).
2. The third column (blue) labelled “石巻発” contains the list of departure times for Ishinomaki.
3. The fourth column (bright green) labelled “田代（たしろ）島発” contains 2 columns, one labelled “大泊” that indicates the direction the boat is going, and the other labelled “仁斗田” contains the arrival time to Tashirojma.
4. The fifth column (green) labelled “網地（あじ）島発” is for arrival times to Aji Island and the sixth (orange) is for arrival times to Ayukawa. These two columns can be ignored.
The second half of the timetable is for departure times from Tashirojima back to Ishinomaki. In this part of the timetable, you need to pay attention to the 2nd, fifth and sixth columns.
1. Once again 2nd purple column and labelled “田代島・網地島 鮎川行き” contains the name of the boat you need to take. As above, these are ブルーライナー (Buru Raina, or Blue Liner), マーメイド (Maamaido, or Mermaid), and みゅう(Myuu).
2. The second (green) column labelled “網地（あじ）島発” is for arrival times to Aji Island and the third (orange) is for arrival times to Ayukawa. These two columns can be ignored.
3. The fifth column (bright green) labelled “田代（たしろ）島発” contains 2 columns, one labelled “仁斗田” contains the departure time from Tashirojma and the other “大泊” indicates the direction the boat is going.
4th. The sixth column (blue) “石巻発” contains the arrival time for Ishinomaki.
Always check what time the last boat leaves Tashirojima, as if you miss this boat you will become stranded on the island overnight.