青島 (Aoshima): the Cat Island

Posted: July 19, 2015 in Photography
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Aoshima aka the Cat Island aka Heaven on Earth.

Having accidentally powered through my to-do list for Matsuyama City in a single day, it was time to expand the search. (On a semi-related note, I would still like to know how it’s possible for the APA Hotel in Nagasaki to have been such a dump, when the one here in Matsuyama was gorgeous and gave me a room overlooking the castle.)

After taking the train that morning to 伊予長浜駅 (Iyonagahama Station – about an hour from Matsuyama Station), I awaited one of the two ferries that day to Aoshima. You can view the ferry schedule on this site (albeit completely in Japanese). Pertinent info: ferries go to the island at 8am and 2:30pm, and return from the island at 8:45am and 4:15pm. This effectively gives you the option of spending 45 minutes on Aoshima, or eight whole hours – and nothing in between. An adult round trip costs ¥1,360.

I was advised by all of the blogs I’d read to arrive at least an hour early to ensure my spot on the boat. In reality, there was literally no one else there, and I ended up wandering half a mile to the nearest convenience store to kill the time. After I’d had lunch and come back, there were precisely six of us in total going to the island.

It’s an em-m-m-m-mergency!

CAT ISLAND!

I was, by this stage, desperately missing my own furry babies, so this went some ways towards mitigating my feline deprivation.

Paw prints embedded in the concrete.

The island is roughly a mile long, and its feline inhabitants outnumber the humans 6:1.

Aoshima is actually a fishing village, and the cats were originally introduced to deal with mice that plagued fishermen’s boats. Situated off the coast of Ehime Prefecture, the island had previously been home to around 900 people in 1945. The majority of the human residents left to work on mainland Japan in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Most of those who remain are pensioners.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Besides its status as a cat mecca, the island has nothing in the way of tourist attractions: there are no shops, restaurants, or even vending machines on Aoshima, so if you’re liable to get hungry or thirsty, be sure to bring your own provisions.

It’s basically a cat café on steroids.

The vast majority of the cats were the same colour, which leads me to believe there’s a ginger tom on the island who would make for a very eventful episode of Maury Povich.

With 15 minutes left before the ferry returned, I decided to explore a little further afield, which soon led me to the abandoned primary school on the hill.

It was literally the first Silent Hill game made manifest.

Mystical anime cat.

And one quick goodbye to my new furry friends as a concerned fellow passenger beckoned me back to the harbour.

On the ferry ride home, the boat’s captain handed around a book for all of the visitors to sign.

Since a fair number of people had left their own illustrations, I felt it only fair to the spread the good word of Wilfred across the globe.

Two of the other passengers actually had a car and very kindly offered me a lift back to Matsuyama, but I already had my train tickets and have seen too many movies like Wolf Creek.

That evening: one last visit to the Dōgo Onsen.

Much like any city with a resident Lush, the smell of soap fills the streets around the onsen.

Dinner at 道後の町屋 (Dōgo no Machiya) and the somewhat miraculous continuance of me finding decent, meat-free food in Japan.

Dessert at みかんの木 (Mikan no Ki) – a blood orange gelato.

“Blood orange.” She’s so pretentious. Shut up, it’s fucking red.

A rotund little bird, hanging out at the tram station.

My last night in Matsuyama. I may have only made it to one prefecture on Shikoku, but – with historic onsen, cat islands, Yayoi Kusama hotels, and Totoro-themed bus stops – damned if it wasn’t a good ‘un!

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Comments
  1. Awesome pictures. The ones with all that cats is great :D.

  2. Markus McD says:

    Haha I love your humour in every post!
    Trip of a life time – rabbit island AND cat island! Eee now where’s that Red Panda Island… 😉

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