What is the best way to spend a vacation? Surrounded by animals of course! Japan has some of the most unique places known to man and their “animal islands” are no exception. If you’re an animal lover, then you’ll enjoy these little paradises scattered around Japan where animals are king of the land. Here are a few of the most interesting “animal islands” in Japan which you can visit to make some furry friends.
Cat Island, Tashirojima, Miyagi
There are many “cat islands” in Japan, but none are as popular as Tashirojima in Miyagi. Tashirojima’s quiet fishing village is home to around 100 residents, but the island itself has hundreds more cats. Left to roam and capture mice for silkworm farms, the cats are seen as a sign of good luck to the fishermen which live there.
There is also a camping resort on the island which offers cat shaped houses for guests to stay in, with decorations by famous manga artists.
Unfortunately the island was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, and while some inhabitants have left the island, the cats (with their nine lives) are still safely wandering its streets.
Be prepared to walk during your visit to Cat Island as it has very little in the way of public transportation. It’s also a good idea to bring some food and drinks with you to the island as there are few shops available. Lastly, the cats are taken care of by the residents of the island, so please do not feed them!
How to get there: You can access Tashirojima via the Ajishima Ferry Line which takes around 40 minutes.
Rabbit Island, Okunoshima, Hiroshima
Despite it’s very cute nickname, Usagijima (or “Rabbit Island” as it is usually called) was once the site of a chemical weapons plant during World War II. Some say that the bunnies which now overrun this island descended from rabbits that were used for experiments in the plant, but experts say that this is untrue. However, it doesn’t keep the myth from spreading like the bunnies that now live there.
The rabbits on this island are not afraid of humans and will happily approach tourists, so you can have your fill of their furry greatness.
But as always, don’t feed them as it will disrupt their natural diet and end up doing more harm than good, and if you’re traveling with any pets, it’s best that you don’t bring them here.
Expect to be walking for most of your visit to Usagijima as car and motorbikes aren’t a good idea with so many bunnies around, although there are bikes for hire and a bus that will take you to the hotel on the island for free.
How to get there: Take the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Mihara Station (only the Kodama Shinkansen will get you there). Transfer to a local train to get to Tadanoumi station. From Tadanoumi, take a ferry to Okunoshima which takes about 12 minutes.
Deer Island, Miyajima, Hiroshima
The island of Miyajima is not only renowned as home to Itsukushima Shrine, with its beautiful torii gate seemingly floating on the water, but also for the Sika deer which live alongside the human residents of the island. In ancient times, the deer of Miyajima were thought to be divine emissaries of the gods and are protected by the government even today. But because of this, the deer of Miyajima are not afraid of humans and are quite content to be pet by tourists which come to the island.
The deer are always trying to get into things and Miyajima is much like the rest of Japan: there are very few garbage bins. So please bring a bag to put your waste in to keep it out of reach of the deer. Lastly, don’t feed the deer as it is prohibited on the island. They may try to go through your stuff to find something to eat, but please try to prevent them.
How to get there: Take a train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi Ferry Terminal. Once there, you can take the JR ferry or Matsudai ferry for the ten minute journey to the island.
Cow island, Kuroshima, Okinawa
Kuroshima, or “Kuro Island”, is an island in Okinawa that is shaped like a heart. But that’s not the only thing interesting about this place. The island is home to thousands of cows, a population which vastly outnumbers the human inhabitants of this island. As a result, it has been marketed as “Cow Island”.
The residents of the island host an annual cow festival which features music, dancing, food, and games. But the most interesting thing about this festival is the fact that you can also win your very own cow! Though one would speculate how you would bring it home. Nonetheless, it’s a unique festival for visitors to participate in. If cows aren’t your thing, the island also offers some great snorkeling where you can see sea turtles in the wild.
If you’re visiting Cow Island, be aware that you need to bring all of your garbage back with you. There are also many snakes on the island, so be careful when walking around and wear appropriate shoes.
How to get there: Take a 25 minute ferry from Ishigaki Port on Ishigaki island.
Please remember that these islands may be popular tourist spots, but they are also someone’s home. Please follow the rules of each island carefully to avoid endangering yourself and the animals you are visiting.
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