Feb 3, 2018
I first ventured to Tashirojima, the Cat Island in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, back in August, half on a dare from the actor Misha Collins (GISWHES) and half to see what all the fuss was about. We had a blast, but failed to find many cats, due in part to the construction occurring at the main port terminal. Last December, I returned with my daughter and a friend in the hopes of enjoying a bit of a winter adventure and the trip was an enlightening one. This is what I learned.
1) See as much of the island as you can, especially the bit near the cat-shaped hotel cabins. That's where all the cats hide as that location has a little cat-shelter and visitor center, which is unfortunately not open in winter. I am absolutely sure this is what we missed out on with our first trip, where we focused on seeing the two port areas and finding cats along the way. If we had endeavored to find a path around the construction, we may well have gotten our picture with the required ten cats for GISHWHES but also would likely have had a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience.
2) Bring Food (for you and the cats)
While the official rules in the guest area prohibit indiscriminate feeding, a few treats here and there are unlikely to cause too much lasting harm. That said, remember there are currently no restaurants on the island and if you are coming at a low-traffic time of year, even the minor rest-stop areas will likely be closed. Bring along what you need and take your garbage with you.
3) Be nice to the locals
This time, one of the locals happened upon us as we searched for cats and advised that we head to her home near the old port where she personally claims eight cats as her own. The tenants of a house a little further down from hers had more than ten to themselves. Most of the local people are keen enough to hold a basic conversation if you're interested in practicing Japanese, but only if they are already out and about. Knocking on a resident's door is definitely frowned upon, as is following cats onto someone's property without their expressed permission.
Near the second public bathroom we found on the island, near the cat-shaped cabins.
4) Pee at the Park
Public facilities are located at the park near the port docking area. As businesses and bathrooms are few and far between on the island, utilizing these spaces is highly recommended. Walking between one port and the other, you will find a number of bushy roadside spaces where one could potentially urinate in an emergency, but again, it is not recommended.
5) Prepare for Motion Sickness
Our previous trip barely beat out an oncoming summer typhoon, which I assumed was the cause of the intense waves that led to my motion sickness on the ferry to the island. As I had never experienced motion sickness before, I scoured the internet for tips on my phone and wound up with exactly two tips I could use when already in transit: Keep an eye on the horizon and go above board to do so if necessary. We later found out that sitting in the back of the boat can also be helpful.
To my dismay, this December trip offered just as much sickness-related difficulty as our pre-typhoon experience. On the upside, we found out that my daughter is not immune to motion sickness and that an absorbent scarf is always a good thing to have on hand. Also, ziplock baggies.
If you're prone to motion sickness, definitely make preparations beforehand. Even if you're not, you might experience some ill-effects, so remember to stare at the horizon and sit at the back of or on top of the boat.
The trip is worth it and is fun, but it's worth a little bit or preparation to have the best time possible.
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.