If you are a cat lover, Aoshima island is absolutely the destination you won't miss. The island is a Cat Paradise.
Aoshima (青島, Aoshima), also known as Cat Island (猫の島, Neko no Shima), is an island in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, known for its large number of feline residents. Felines have been reported by news outlets to outnumber humans by ratios between 6:1and 10:1, but as elderly inhabitants of the island have died, the ratio has greatly increased to almost 36:1.
Cats were originally introduced on ships because the fisherman had to deal with a rodent problem. But the cats then remained on the island and reproduced, thus the population increasing almost exponentially.
However, Aoshima Island is not a tourist spot. So it is very important to respect the tranquility of the island, as well as private property. There’re no cars, hotels, restaurants, or even vending machines on the island also. Residents there are mostly elders. They won’t turn away the visitors who want to get close to the cats, but make sure not to disturb the residents if you visit the island, and do not feed the cats because they are fed by the residents every day.
The feline inhabitants of Aoshima are fed by food donations from all over Japan. The cats also eat the small creatures on the island.
The island is roughly 1 mile (1.6 km) long. It was formerly part of Nagahama in Kita District, but as of 2005, is part of Ōzu.
The human population has decreased since sardine fisheries depleted and jobs moved to cities. Currently, only 6 human residents live on Aoshima.
In 1945, the island was a fishing village with a population of approximately 900. In 2013, the island was estimated to be home to 50 residents. In 2018, Ehime Shimbun reported that the population had decreased to 13 with an average age of "over 75". In 2019, Asahi Shimbun Globe reported that only 6 residents remained on the island. The island attracts tourists who visit the cats and give them food.
The feline population of the island has been reported as between 120 and 130 between 2015 and 2018.
In February 2018, it was reported by Ehime Shimbun that all cats on the island would be spayed or neutered in order to lower the feline population as a response to the declining human population. By October, 210 cats had been spayed and neutered, with another estimated 10 cats uncaptured that had been hidden by an old resident who opposed the program.
It’s not a spot with convenient transportation as only two rounds of ferries go to the island per day. Aoshima is accessible via a ferry departing from in front of JR Iyo-Nagahama Station in Port Nagahama, which takes around 30 minutes.
However, it might be a destination to try and visit for the extremely keen cat lovers.