Guest writer: Grim#0049
Hello everyone, today I’m here with the purrfect article for cat lovers! (=^ェ^=)
Cat island, also known natively as Ainoshima (Aino-island), is located in the Genkai Sea of Shingū, Fukuoka, Japan. Ainoshima is theoretically classified as a fishing village populated by a small number of locals, but due to the staggering amount of cats it almost seems as if it’s instead a nation of cats. While just one of the many cat islands in Japan, I found this one to be the most exciting and I hope you will too! Before we get into the bulk of the article, here’s a short clip of the islands main residents.
So let’s shed a little light on the background of Ainoshima. The island was never a popular place to settle down, due in part to its size , transportation requirements (a boat), and lack of proper facilities which has led to an ever declining population. The highest population ever reached was 665 in 1960, which was due in part to the many WW2 victims that escaped there. Over time, the lack of schools (the last and only one shutting down in 1976) and jobs caused most of those people to leave which has now brought the population down to mostly retirees and a few fishermen.
While it may sound barren, Ainoshima is home to some interesting spots to explore that don’t include cats, such as: a historical rock mound dating from the 5th century which is called a tumuli, a columnar jointing sheer cliff, an ancient shrine and wonderful spots to look out over the ocean. The majority of these spots are found along a 5.4-kilometer road that loops around the island, but there are also some hiking trails which you can take if you prefer to walk. If birdwatching is your thing, then Ainoshima is the perfect place to watch migratory birds nest. All those birds might explain how the cats are able to feed themselves…
Cats, Cats, Cats!
“So where did all these cats come from if everyone left?”, is what you’re likely asking yourself. Well, you may be surprised to hear that the hundreds of cats that populated the island were not brought there nor traveled there, but are instead all caused by just 10 cats.
In early 2000 while the resident population depleted the cat population skyrocketed as those 10 initial cats had offspring which then had their own offspring in a cycle that led to the domination of Ainoshima. Even with rules and signs that disallow the feeding of the cats, they still seem to find enough food to maintain their sizable population.
How to get to Ainoshima
Reaching Ainoshima is no easy feat, as you have to take several different forms of transportation before you arrive at the island. You’ll first have to take a train and then get off at Nishitetsu Shingu Station. From there, you will have to take a community bus to get to Shingu Port, which only takes about 10 minutes and only charges 100 yen (around 0.92¢ USD). However, as the bus runs infrequently, you’d probably be better off just walking which would only take 20 minutes. It shouldn’t be too difficult to spot the port, but you can always pull out Google Maps if you need to.
Once you arrive at the port, you’ll have to take a ferry which averages 17 minutes to get to the island and only charges 480 yen for adults (around $4.40 USD) or 230 yen for a child ($2.11 USD). Once you get off the ferry, congratulations! You’ve made it to the island and can now enjoy your trip. Just make sure to get off the island by the last boat because there is nowhere that you can stay overnight on the island.
Cats play an important part in Japanese culture and society, as seen both with Stationmaster Tama and Ainoshima. While Tama offers a look into how a cat has grown to reverence in human society, the multitude of cat islands like Ainoshima offer a glance into the lives of feral cats and how they mingle with locals. If you ever find yourself in Japan, I definitely recommend that you take the time to stop by one of the islands and see the wonders of the cat nation for yourself!