After living in Ishinomaki for 5 months, I finally got up early enough to catch the 9:00am ferry to Tashirojima, aka Cat Island. This is not to be confused with the Aoshima Cat Island. Located just a little further south of the Ishinomori Manga Museum and Hiyoriyama Park is the dock for the Ajishima Line that ferries tourists, native and foreign alike to Tashirojima, as well as Aji Island. Thankfully the ticket dispenser had an English option, so there was no trouble in securing a round-trip pass from Ishinomaki to the Nitoda Port. Bring on the cats!
Upon getting off the boat I was immediately greeted by one wandering around on the docks…and then 5 more at the waiting area by watering bowls. Also a sign that uh…
Alright. I will not food to cats.
Once past the local park, I decided to take the long walk on the road that went around the side of the island. Although it was the middle of summer, there was enough sea breeze and shade to keep cool. Cats are just sleeping about in the middle of the street or hiding in the nearby vegetation, but none were shy when a visitor walked by.
Local cat attacks tourist for peanut butter! See? This was why they warned us to not food to cats!
After a long hike, up the hills I finally found the ever popular cat shrine that is commonly advertised. The entire shrine is decorated with offerings, little cat statues of all kinds scattered around the display, and even tied on to wildlife. I thought I was alone but after ringing the bell hanging in front of the small gate … a single black cat came out to investigate and be my new model.
Oh man, that’s cute! Show me your good side, buddy!
After a quick stop at the restaurant not far from the shrine I was feeling refreshed and rehydrated. Remember to bring your own water, but no need to panic if you forget. There are several areas where you can get refreshments and find vending machines on the island.
Although the cat shrine is the most popular shrine shown on numerous websites, it is not the only shrine on the whole island. The more I walked along the main roads I’d find several shrine gates leading to other worship grounds tucked away into small, almost hidden paths. I found myself almost eager to get lost on the many trails to discover something new. At some point I felt like I had come for the cats and was staying for the nature and scenery.
One shrine in particular was along the southern tail of the island not far from some of the local homes. Up a traditional stairway was a large Buddhist shrine. Although worn down and falling apart, there was still signs of worship being practiced. I did not see it for myself, but there is a local legend of a very large, black and white cat that guards the shrine … or he could have been at one of many others located around the island. You never know.
Finally I made it further down to the southern area to discover Manga Island, which is actually still connected to the main island. Nor are there any manga. The name is rather misleading. But there were more cats as well as cat shaped homes which tourists can rent overnight if you’d like to stay the evening … or if you didn’t catch the last ferry back to the mainland.
Just south of the Manga Island cat houses is the rocky beach with an ocean view so blue you’d think it was out of a child’s storybook. You can hear the waves all the way from the cat houses. Locals and visitors are allowed to go swimming along the rocks at just about anytime during the summer. Up alongside the hill with all the local houses, there is a small establishment called Olive Café where tourists can relax and refresh themselves.
After several hours and exploring the whole island, I made my way back to the docks to catch the 2:12pm ferry back to Ishinomaki. The whole time was a pleasant experience, calming, cute, and catty. Nyah, nyah!
Things to Consider
- Bring bug spray. You’ll need it.
- You’ll want sunblock, despite all the shade along the road, especially if you plan on exploring or sunbathing along the rock beach.
- Bring water, but if you don’t there are vending machines located along the docks and at the restaurant on the island near the main cat shrine.
- Take your trash with you when you leave the island. The people who live on Tashirojima request this due to their trash collection only happening once per week. They want to keep the island as clean as possible.
- Very few buildings on the island are abandoned. People do live on Tashirojima. While they are happy to have tourists enjoying the cats, please understand their right to privacy. Don’t enter buildings at random unless you are invited.
- There are more lodges for rent than just Manga Island. Buildings that are empty are most likely still owned by locals and rented out to tourists. Do not assume any unattended building is abandoned.
- Grab the map and complimentary fan from the Ajishima Line’s ticket office while you’re there. They won’t be available on the Tashirojima.
- Have cash on you, especially if you plan on eating at the island’s café, restaurant, or staying in the lodges overnight.
- Ajima Ferry Website (Japanese Only)
- Ferry Time Table: On the website’s home page, but to simplify it, you can get on the ferry to the island at 9am, Noon, and 3:30pm. Return boats are at 7:40am for those who stayed the previous night, 2:12pm, and 3:33pm.
- Ferry Location Address: 3 Chome-3-1-19 Kadonowaki-cho, Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi-ken, 986-0834, Japan
- Ferry Price: 2,460 Yen, round trip per adult. Half price for children.