Aoshima is Japan’s premiere cat island
It’s not generally known that the Seto Inland Sea is divided into specific maritime areas. But the area of the sea to north of Ōzu is called Iyonada, and in this expanse of water lies an island that has won fame around the world. It’s Aoshima, better known as Cat Island. On a clear day, the island appears as a distant green blob off the straight coast of Ehime to the west of Iyo City.
Aoshima in the Iyonada Sea has won fame around the world as Japan’s premier Cat Island. It’s home to around 150 felines, who outnumber the human islanders ten to one. With the aging of the population and the exodus of young people to cities, islands like Aoshima are gradually returning to nature. But some species do better than others, and for the time being, the cats of Aoshima are thriving. Interestingly, this has more to do with the popularity of cats on the internet than the admittedly strong evolutionary adaptability of moggies. Without the attention that certain websites have brought to the cats of Aoshima, the fishermen of the island would no doubt have taken measures to curtail their explosive growth.
A working fishing island
It must be noted that the islanders are no more keen to attract tourists than they are to look after cats. They just want to pursue their main business of fishing. Consequently, no effort is made to welcome visitors. There are no tourist facilities on the island, and if you want to eat here, you have to bring your own food. And the ferry that leaves from Nagahama Port is hardly convenient for visitors. It accepts only 30 passengers, bookings aren’t accepted, and the timetable allows only an inadequate 40 minutes, or an overly long 8 hours. Casual visitors to Aoshima are often turned away because the ferry is full.
But there’s no gainsaying the attraction of Aoshima. When the boat comes into the harbour, the cats rush down the gangway to the floating dock. Most of them are ginger or tabbies, but there are a few of other colours, including several long-haired varieties. It wouldn’t be true to call them affectionate, but if you have food, some of them will even climb up you to get fed. Generally, cats are too proud to eat from human hand. If you proffer them a little fish for example, they’ll extend a claw and dig it in your finger so you drop the fish. As you swear and bleed, the cat will eat. So chucking the food on the ground is the safest way.
Abandoned buildings and great views
If you opt to spend more than 40 minutes on the island, you can explore. Aoshima has many abandoned buildings including a school which you’re free to enter at your own risk. There are interesting and evocative reminders of the children who used to live on the island. The rocky coastline also rewards exploration. When the air is clear, you can see all the way to Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest mountain in western Japan.
|Adult (12 and over)
Location: 1030-3 Nagahama, Ōzu, Ehime Prefecture
Originally from England, I came to live in Ehime in 2001. I’m interested in the history of the Suigun, seagoing clans who dominated the Seto Inland Sea for two centuries. I find it very relaxing to photograph the beautiful scenery and the wildlife. I hope people will visit Setouchi and enjoy exploring this unique area. To help visitors make the most of their time here, I offer travel services at ShikokuTours.com. Be sure to try the excellent sake when you visit!
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