Off the coast of Ehime Prefecture, Japan, lies a small island called Aoshima. Aoshima is considered a part of Nagahama Town in Osuji City, and around 100 cats and 15 villagers live within its 4 kilometer borders. Although some of the cats are owned by the townspeople, most of them are wild. However, even the wild ones are quite used to humans, and many hop on people’s laps and doze off regularly. According to Mr. Kamimoto, a fisherman from the island, the cats are split into separate groups, and each group is cared for by specific people. When questioned further, he explains that in the past, when the island’s fishing industry was prosperous, fishermen kept the cats so they would eat the rats that chewed holes through their fishing nets. In the past few years the island has been featured on many television shows and websites, and many books have also been published, making it an instant sensation. As a result, people from all over Japan and the rest of the world have started to visit. Still, the island’s inhabitants are getting on in years, and they have no intention to make it into a tourist attraction. There are no restaurants or vending machines on the island, and only two small ships make the trip back and forth each day. When the seats on the ships are sold out, it becomes impossible to make it there, and it is not unusual to have trips canceled due to weather. For a while there were issues with tourists feeding the cats too much and littering, but the islanders have dealt with these issues with various policies, such as limiting the feeding grounds. The island has long been called “the cat island,” or “cat’s paradise,” and people who live there do so with that expectation. Still, the islanders have a way of life, and it is important to respect it and act according to their rules if you decide to visit.
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