The cat islands of Japan are also called “Nekojima”. These are the islands where cats can often outnumber people and they are all generally very friendly animals. There are some advocates to care for the populations as tourism soars and brings in income for the communities.
Read on to find out more about these cat islands and how you can visit them.
This cat island is located in the Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo. This is the best cat island to visit if you’re in the Tokyo area. Cross the bridge from Katase-Enoshima Station and you will end up on Enoshima island.
The island is most popular for its many shrines collectively known as Enoshima Shrine. The legend attached to the shrine is about a dragon who was in love with a beautiful maiden.
That maiden was Benten and she had saved the island from the dragon when she subdued him after he fell in love with her.
While visiting the island you will find many cats along the path that winds its way to the top of the island for a gorgeous view. Other touristy areas include a park and observation tower along with some great views of Mount Fuji on clear days.
This island is accessible by train and monorail through the Enoden, Odakyu Railways, and the Shonan Monorail.
This is the only populated island in Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, and one of the oldest lakes in the world. It is populated by the descendants of banished samurai, and many friendly, stray cats.
Often called the “Town of Cats”, based on the dense amount of cats that can be found on the island. They will lunge around the harbor, eating fish and greeting any visitors who come ashore.
One of the best things about the island is that there is no car access to the island, meaning the cats can live without fear of being run over by cars. The main mode of transportation is on bicycles.
The island carries about 400 people who are descended from a band of exiled samurai. Seven samurai were defeated in battle in the 12th century and fled with their families to Okishima Island.
As the years wore on, they had formed their own villages on the island.
The island can be accessed by ferry after taking a train to Omihachiman station and taking a bus to Horikiri New Port where you can catch the ferry to Okishima.
This island sits along the inland sea, on the coast of Kanagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture. Kanagawa spans the northeast corner of Shikoku Island. It is dotted with fishing villages and has a nice, temperate climate.
Of course, many stray cats live on this island that are friendly to visitors. Considered the “paradise of cats” the feline friends are fed well by the scraps given to them by the locals.
The cats were originally brought to this island to deal with the mouse problem that plagued the community.
The island became a cat island over time as the history of the island includes pirates, shipbuilders, and fishermen.
Cats survived from the scraps the fishermen left behind and helped keep mice from their boats. Sanagishima became mostly populated by fishermen, therefore making it easier for cats to survive as strays.
Its popularity as a tourist destination has been around for 15 years but despite that, it is ill-equipped for tourists so this is another island that requires day trip preparation.
You can access the island by boat from the Tadotsu Port.
Aoshima is the least populated island by people and more populated by cats. Only 15 people live on this island with about 120 cats. This Island is in the Ehime prefecture and is one of the Shikoku islands as well.
Going to this island is only a day trip destination since most of the people that live on this island are older people and there are no hotels, restaurants, or vending machines, so it’s better to stock up on water and lunches.
The island has a small fishing village and even some old school buildings from an elementary school and a junior high school, but they have since closed. No children live on this island nor any motor vehicles or bicycles.
As you walk along, be sure to be on the lookout for little paw prints in the cement where some cats had walked through in the construction of the streets.
The island is accessible by ferry at Nagahama Port.
The Ehime prefecture is known for growing the best oranges in Japan and this island is no exception. While other cat islands have fishing villages, this particular fishing village also grows oranges.
The island includes many traditional houses and many great hiking spots. Even a walkway that spans 9.3 miles where you could find some feline friends along the way.
It also wouldn’t hurt to grab a few oranges while you’re there. The community produces the juiciest, most tasty oranges in Japan.
The two mountains Oritateyama and Takamatsuyama overlook the skyline of Muzuki.
The island is accessible by ferry from the ports of Mitsuhama and Takahama.
Just off the coast of Japan’s main island Honshu, about 31 kilometers or 19 miles away lies Manabeshima in Okayama prefecture. This island has two fishing villages and a lot of lush natural beauty where the cats thrive.
There are a few abandoned houses you will find on a walk through the two fishing villages. Perfect for the Urban photographers and lovers of abandoned structures.
The island used to inhabit around 1,000 people, but only holds a population of 200 these days. It has the biggest population of cats to humans, where there are almost as many humans as cats.
It has some sloping hills in one of the villages and a historic school building that overlooks the island. It has also been used as a filming location for its scenic potential. Used in a myriad of Japanese movies, the scenic island speaks for itself.
Of course, while walking through the villages and the island as a whole, you will encounter cats that are friendly but also some that are a little more timid around people.
The island can be accessed by boat from the Ksaoka Port.
This cat island is one of the easiest to travel to if you’re a busy traveler with a lot to do. This island is located in the northern area of the Fukuoka Prefecture.
You can spend a bit of your day wandering around this island and encountering cats at every turn.
The shinkansen bullet train has a station that isn’t a long walk away from Kukora Port where you can take a boat to access the island.
This island is located in the Shingu District of the Fukuoka Prefecture. On a map, it almost looks like a heart-shaped island.
With 500 people living among 100 cats, this cat island is the most convenient. A 20-minute ferry ride to Shingu Port will take you to this cat tourist paradise.
Genkaishima had the largest cat population among the islands, but after the earthquake back in 2005, that changed. The disaster took its toll on the humans and cats of the island but the cats are still thriving and their population is growing.
The affected parts of the island have since been reconstructed as of 2008. You can access the island from Hakata Port in Fukuoka City.
Kadarashima resides in the Saga prefecture, a small prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The uniqueness of this cat island is the legend behind it.
As the stories tell, there was a dog that angered the island deity of Yasakajinja Shrine and was driven off the island by the deity’s full wrath.
All other dogs were driven off the island as well, so of course, the cats of the island took over to dominate the island, along with humans.
This island is not as well-known but the cats are certainly the stars of this island, much like the others. It’s definitely worth the time to check this one out.
The closest port that can get you to Kadarashima Island is Yobuku where you can access the island by boat.