Everyone loves cats. If you are visiting Japan, and are looking for something a little different, then why not check out a 'cat island'. That's right, an island inhabited by mostly wild felines, hundreds of them. We visited Ainoshima Island, known as Cat Heaven Island, in Fukuoka, to check out these cats for ourself:
Ainoshima Island is just off the coast of Shingu. The journey takes twenty minutes. It has more cats living on the island than human beings. In Japanese, the word for cat is, ‘neko’, and the way it is pronounced rhymes it with ‘echo’.
I arrive on the island. There is a pile of traditional old Japanese houses, and the backdrop to these houses is mountainous and covered in deep forests. Although rather small, the island still takes a long time to walk the full length.
As I wander around the island. The small Japanese houses offer very little shade from the summer sun. Today is the hottest day so far this year. I see more cats than I care to photograph. I find that most of the cats are hiding between each of the houses, in the shade, sleeping quietly.
There is one cat that takes a shine to me. He follows me around the island as I walk. Meowing, crying. I don’t know which. I offer him some of my water but he just says, “Nyaa nyaa,” (the noise that cats make here). Maybe he is just hungry. I presume tourists visit this island to come and feed the cats, but this is only a presumption.
There is one last thing on Ainoshima Island, not mentioned in any guide books. Wasps. Giant wasps that chase you. I will admit though, I spend most of my time on the island either admiring the cats, or running away from the wasps like a frightened rabbit. I just wish I had brought some food with me, as there are no shops on the island, and it would have be nice to feed some of these cats. Impossible to feed them all though.
I take the last ferry off the island at 4 p.m. There are only three other people on the ferry and thirty-two empty seats. A somewhat waste of fuel, in my opinion.
Admission: Free (but the ferry is ¥ 460 for a one way ticket)
Getting there: Take the ferry from Shingu Port. It takes about twenty minutes, before arriving at Ainoshima Island.