The Island in Japan Where Cats Outnumber People

Kamie Berry | June 3rd, 2017

Cat lovers of the world, rejoice! There is a special island in Japan where all your feline dreams can come true. On the island of Tashirojima, there are more cats than people, and it is expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Cats are considered good luck by many in Japanese society, and it also helps that they are excellent for keeping rodent populations down. In the Edo Period, which ran from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, many people on the island raised silkworms. They brought in cats to keep mice away from these valuable creatures. The felines were allowed to breed unrestricted, so their population exploded over the centuries. At the same time, the number of humans on Tashirojima fell to below 100. Now, cats outnumber humans by a ratio of 6 to 1.

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The cats are treated like royalty because caring for them is believed to bring good luck. Residents even claim that the felines’ presence protected the island from being utterly destroyed in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. However, they are rarely kept as pets, as this is not considered appropriate. So, the cats are free to roam the island at will. The residents of Tashirojima are very protective of the cats, and dogs are not allowed onto the island.

There are other things to see on the island besides feral felines. Tashirojima is also known as Manga Island, because a prominent manga artist once planned to move there. There are manga-themed vacation rentals available that are, of course, shaped like cats.

There is also a cat shrine located there. It was built when a large rock fell on one of the cats, killing it. Some fisherman on the island, who also appreciated the felines’ usefulness, felt bad for the poor animal and buried it. They then built the shrine to mark its place of burial.

The cats are now a major source of income for residents of Tashirojima, as thousands of cat-loving visitors now flock to the island annually. Altogether, there are about a dozen different “cat islands” in Japan, though Tashirojima is one of the most popular. Japan may truly be a cat-lover’s paradise.

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