Let’s face it, people who don’t find cats adorable are pretty rare. But as much as we all find them cute and cuddly, there are no bigger cat fans in the world than Japanese people. Japan is, to put it simply, obsessed with cats. Cats are a major part of the Japanese culture and their rich history. This famous bond between cats and Japanese folklore originates all the way back since 500 A.D. Around that time cats were introduced to the Japanese people and they instantly loved them. They weren’t fond of cats because of their adorableness and purring, they loved them because they were eating rodents. Rodents were presenting a serious issue at that point in time in Japan. They were constantly eating and damaging Buddhist manuscripts that were written on parchment, which they found irresistibly tasty. Buddhist monks were desperate and couldn’t find the solution for the rat and mice problem. The solution to their problems presented itself in the cutest possible form -a cat.
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Since that time cats have been all around Buddhist temples chasing off rodents far away from priceless manuscripts. Monks started to look after them and appreciate them as guardians of temples.
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In that way, cats infiltrated Japanese culture forever and were starting to gradually get glorified in their folklore. Many stories about cats and their mystical abilities were told, such as the story about Bakeneko, the demon cat that can change forms, and can even turn into a human. Besides numerous stories, as the society progressed cats served as the inspiration for almost every art form and beyond.
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If you’re such a great cat lover, that not even the Japanese cat cafes, cat theme parties and festivals can’t satisfy you completely and give you the cat experience you desire. Than maybe it’s time for you to visit the Japanese cat island. That’s right, there is an entire island filled with cats that you can visit in tours twice a day.
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This small island is called Aoshima and it is located in Japan near the city of Miyazaki. It is only a mile (1.6km) long and its population is 22 people ages 50 to 80. The only profession on the island is fisherman and there are 4 of them, the 18 remaining are retirees. The island is very peaceful itself, there is not a single shop or a vending machine, no cars or bikes or any kind of a transportation vehicle. It could easily be described as a “ghost town”, if there weren’t about 120 cats on the island.
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Cats are the reason there are no vehicles on the island, so that nothing can harm them. In this town, if we look at it proportionally, there are 6 cats for every human living there and the number of cats is constantly rising while the number of people living there is slowly decreasing. Although there are a lot of tourists visiting every day so the proportion between people and cats gets a bit more equalized during the day.
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The island of Aoshima is attracting tourists from around the world not only because of cats, but also because it is surrounded by a strange rock formation called “devils washboard” which is even considered to be a geological phenomena.
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In history it wasn’t as abandoned as it is today considering only 22 people actually live on the island. This small territory was in fact very crowded. On this, only one mile long island, used to live around 900 people till around 1945. Than the population started to decrease and the biggest problem for the fisherman that stayed on Ayoshima were the rodents and a mouse plague. The biggest problem was that rodents were destroying their little fishing boats which were more than necessary for them to feed themselves, since fishing is the only thing they knew how to do. As they were getting more and more hopeless, an answer to their problems suddenly appeared in front of them. And just like the Buddhist monks, if you remember from the beginning of this article, these people found solution to their worries in cats. A bunch of cats got transported and set free on the island via small boats. As expected, cats multiplied amongst each other over the years. Now, what was once known as the small fisherman island with a mouse plague, is known as the “cat island”, a tourist heaven.
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Cats on the island live a very peaceful and happy life. They love to be around tourist and are very friendly. This is one of the few places on earth where cats aren’t threatened by vehicles or predators since none of this exists on the island.
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The cats aren’t very picky about what they eat. Usually they eat rice balls and potatoes that they get from tourists and they are rarely hungry. Except this February when the island was running out of food supplies for cats. Apparently the wind was too strong and people from the island couldn’t get to the shops on a nearby coast, since there are no shops on Ayoshima.
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The problem was solved via Twitter. A man tweeted that there is no more food for cats on Ayoshima and begged people of the internet for help. Soon more and more packages of food started arriving, and simply didn’t stop coming. They filled their storage to the top, and after only five days they tweeted again, begging people to stop sending food since there is no more room for it, and that they have enough cat foot to last them for three months.
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This place is a “must visit” for every cat lover out there, and you only need to remember few simple things. And that is to be patient since tours to the island can easily be canceled because of tides, take some food and water with you on the island, and be gentle with cats. They are expecting you.