Well, actually there’s a dozen of ‘cat islands’ in Japan – small places where there are more furry feline residents than humans.
In Aoshima, more than one hundred cats roam the island – taking over abandoned houses or looking over everything that is happening in the fishing villages. Cat lovers all over the world have become familiar with the tiny island and have actually started to outnumber the number of permanent residents – we really do love cats don’t we?
More than 120 stray cats live on the Aoshima which has just a handful of people living there, outnumbering them by six-to-one. The cats were originally put on the island to deal with the mice problem that the fishermen had after they kept plaguing their boats, the cats decided to make this their forever home and multiplied.
The island has an ageing population of humans too, as the majority of people living on the island are pensioners who decided to stay in Aoshima instead of joining the waves of migrants who were seeking work in mainland Japan after the second world war.
The island had once been home to about 900 people, but now an army of cats rule the remote area, the only sign of human activity now is the boatload of tourists that day-trip to the famous cat island from the mainland. It has no restaurants, cars or shops making it not really the ideal tourist place – except of course if you’re a cat lover and then it really is heaven on earth.
The popularity of the cat island is not surprising considering Japan is the home place to hello kitty and cat cafes which are popular in Tokyo, catering to those who have strict housing regulations that forbid pets or can’t afford a pet cat.
If you’re concerned about the kitties on the island, don’t be. They aren’t as fussy as your average domesticated cat – they survive off rice ball, potatoes and energy bars and anything else the tourists decide to treat them to. The island also doesn’t have any natural predators so the cats run around free, without any fear – not a bad life.
The locals are beginning to start and try to keep the cat population under control with at least ten of them being neutered. They have been digging up gardens and the tourists that have been visiting the islands haven’t been doing so in peace. Either way, this cat island is a beautiful example of how times change, people move and nature takes its cause.
Would you ever visit Aoshima – the cat island?