Aug 22, 2017
A Day Trip to Tashirojima Cat Island, Miyagi
The first cats we found, in the park near Nidori Port. Other cats we found along the way.
One of the best known tourist spots in Tohoku, Tashirojima, or Cat Island, stands an hour's ferry ride from Ishinomaki in northern Miyagi. From Sendai, the train ride to Ishinomaki will take either 60 or 90 minutes (express and local respectively) and cost 840 yen. From Ishinomaki station, hop in a taxi. Just saying Tashirojima will be enough to direct the driver to the ferry port, which I still do not know the name of. The taxi ride will cost around 1000 yen.
The most important factor is time as the ferry to the island only leaves 3 times a day, the first of which is at 9AM. If you're planning on leaving any later than that but want to see a lot of the island, making arrangements at one of the few guest houses on the little island would be recommended, but must be done in advance.
My research had indicated two port options, but on out trip only Nitoda was open, as indicated here.
The last ferry back is usually around 4PM but check local listings for details when you arrive at the ferry terminal. This and other information is available there. A machine inside of the ferry port waiting room sells the tickets in a number of languages including English. A round trip ticket to Tashirojima costs 2500 yen.
What to Bring:
There are no convenience stores on the island, though there is one small restaurant in the middle. It is a good idea to bring your own food and drinks, but you will also be reminded several times throughout the trip to take all of your garbage home with you as the garbage days on the island are few and far between, and really only meant for the locals. So bring what you want but also pack light enough to trek about a bit as you will likely be walking down paved roads through the wilderness or around the coast most of the day.
The tiny restaurant.
The cat shrine.
Some cats were relaxed enough to be pet, but trust your instincts. Not all are as friendly.
Bring cat treats or dry cat food if you want to try to round a bunch of the kitties together or just give them some treats. Again, you can't buy these on the island, so bring them if you want them and mind your garbage.
As of the beginning of August, 2017, ongoing construction at each of the two ports (Nitoda and Odomari) has driven the majority of the cats into hiding. We actually had a hard time scrounging ten of them together, only managing to get eight in one spot just before we left. Why did we care how many cats we had in one space? Well, in addition to summer fun with my offspring, this was a GISHWHES item:
While there might have been more cats on the far side of the island, we were worn out and ready to return before the 2PM ferry came. We had walked from one port to the other, through some scenic roadway and over some hills. Near the Odomari port area, an older woman asked us to sit and drink some juice with her, and in the heat, we could hardly refuse.
As it turns out, the woman is planning to open a small cafe at that location in the near future and always looks forward to meeting new foreigners. When asked for the location of the cats, she suggested we return to Nitoda, the main port from whence we had come. Trekking back to the main port took a little less time than coming to Odomari had, mainly because we read the kanji on the road signs directing us that way this time.
After walking back and forth across the whole island and finding only a few cats along the way, we elected to go check out a small souvenir shop indicated on the signs and mentioned by the local woman we had met. A short walk up some more hills and we were there, with a great view of the ocean.
Inside the small shop was a miniature photo-collection/museum dedicated to the cats on the island, a few seats and tables, a snack and beverage counter, and a small souvenir stand in the corner. We enjoyed some refreshments before heading back out to wait for the ferry.
That over-enthusiastic smile? My gishing face.
To our surprise, we found a few cats on the way to the ferry and managed to get others together for one last GISH shot before we headed home.
All in all, we consider it a fun adventure and look forward to future trips, hopefully including more cats and less construction.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.