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Unterwegs auf Aoshima, Bild: YAMASA / shutterstock

Aoshima: The Cat Island

An island where more cats than people live? Fans of the soft four-legged friends will certainly not forget their visit to Aoshima, a small island in Japan, in a hurry.

Cats as a cultural symbol

It is well known that cats have a great status in Japanese culture. In Japanese mythology, there is a god of cats, called Nekogami, and last but not least, the waving cat figure, Maneki-neko, which can now also be found in various Asian restaurants and shops in Europe, is widespread as a lucky charm in the land of the rising sun. In many cities, cat shrines and stone sculptures of the four-legged friend with the soft fur have been erected. Cat cafes are ubiquitous in Japan’s cities, and the cartoon character Hello Kitty is popular not only in her country of birth, but now also worldwide.

Where the cats now rule

Cats rule on Aoshima, Image: sido kagawa / shutterstock

One of the highlights for all cat fans visiting Japan is undoubtedly the small island of Aoshima, also known as Cat Island. Once settled by fishermen in the 17th century, today only about 20 people live on this island. Aoshima can be reached by ferry, which runs twice a day between the island and the city of Nagahama on Shikoku Island. The journey takes about 30 minutes. What makes Aoshima so special are around 120 cats that live here and, you could almost say, have taken over the helm. Most of these four-legged friends are trusting and open to cuddles, especially if you bribe them with some food they have brought with them. How did the cats come to Cat Island? When the first fishermen came to Aoshima, they were confronted with the many rats living on the island, which bit through their fishing nets. Without further ado, the natural enemies of the rats were brought to the island and the problem was solved.

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The appropriate behavior of visitors on Cat Island

Since it is only 49 hectares in size and the (human) number of inhabitants is very limited, there is no tourist infrastructure on Aoshima such as restaurants, kiosks, cafes, shops or even cars and buses. Due to the very reduced ferry traffic, you have to be prepared to spend the whole day on the island and should therefore make sure to bring enough food with you.

Some rules have also been set up that must be observed as a visitor:

  1. Feeding the animals is only possible and permitted at designated feeding stations.
  2. The stay at the ferry port is only permitted during arrival and departure and should be as short as possible. The reason for this is that the port is very small and the entire supply of the islanders is handled through it.
  3. The houses on the island may not be entered without authorization.
  4. No garbage may be left on Aoshima. All waste must be taken back to the mainland.
  5. The cats must not be overfed.

What else you can do on Aoshima besides petting cats

If you don’t want to spend the whole day dealing with the four-legged inhabitants of the island, you should definitely bring a camera. The numerous abandoned and partly dilapidated houses offer an ideal backdrop for exciting photos. However, it is strongly recommended to exercise caution at this point – ruined houses pose various dangers such as crumbling material, slippery floors, sharp objects and the like.

The island’s rocky coastline also offers wonderful views of the sea and Mount Ishizuchi, and amateur and professional photographers looking for interesting and picturesque motifs will quickly find what they are looking for.

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A day trip with a difference

A visit to Aoshima Island is certainly not the right thing for those who don’t want to miss out on comfort on vacation, as it involves some planning and organization. However, if you decide to explore Cat Island on your own, you will be rewarded with fluffy four-legged friends waiting to be petted and a unique, nostalgic backdrop.

Weather in Aoshima


Month Average temperature (°C) Precipitation (mm)
Jan 5 50
Feb 6 70
Fable 10 120
Apr 15 150
May 20 180
Jun 24 200
Jul 28 180
Aug 29 170
Sep 25 160
Oct 19 100
Nov 13 70
Head 7 50

Facts about Aoshima at a glance

  • Location and access: Aoshima is located in Ehime Prefecture in Japan and is connected to the main island of Shikoku by a bridge. It is accessible by public transport, the easiest way is by train and bus from Matsuyama.
  • Famous for: Aoshima is best known for its large population of cats, which far exceeds the number of human inhabitants. This peculiarity attracts many tourists.
  • Nature and surroundings: The island is surrounded by a beautiful seascape with clear waters and offers quiet walks around the island.
  • Tourist attractions:
    • Cat watching: Visitors can observe and photograph the many free-roaming cats.
    • Aoshima Shrine: A small, picturesque shrine that is often visited by cats.
  • Gastronomy: There are a few cafes and restaurants that offer fresh fish and local specialties.
  • Accommodation: Accommodation options are limited, with some inns and possibly private rentals.
  • Activities: Walks, photography, bird watching, and relaxing by the sea are popular activities on Aoshima.