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If you like animals, Japan is a perfect place for you! Maybe you have heard of cat cafes, where you can interact with cats while drinking coffee, but, do you know there are also “animal islands/villages” in Japan where you can interact with the animals? If you are an animal lover, those places are paradise on Earth for sure, let me introduce you some of them.
(Photo from photoAC)
There are several islands that are called “Cat Island” in Japan. But, probably the most famous of all is Tashirojima or Tashiro Island.
Tashirojima is located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ishinomaki City in Miyagi prefecture. It’s a very small island with a population of only about 60 people and most of them are old. On the other hand, it is estimated that there are over 100 cats, meaning, there are more cats than human beings there.
Back in Edo period, the textile was thriving on this island and many of the residents raised silkworms for their textiles. The cats were originally brought over there to chase mice away that would eat those silkworms. Ever since then, the cats have been cherished and taken care of by the residents.
There is even a small “cat shrine” at the center of the island that is revered by the residents, especially fishermen because it is believed to bring a big catch of fish and prevent maritime accidents.
Interestingly, it is not allowed to bring dogs to the island, as they are considered a natural enemy of cats, which isn’t true by the way. Feeding the cats is also prohibited because a change in foods they eat might cause them diarrhea or any other problems.
(Photo from Flickr)
Ōkunoshima, or better known as Rabbit Island, is located in the Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Takehara city in Hiroshima prefecture. It is inhibited by over 700 rabbits, which outnumber by far the 20 people living there.
Where these rabbits came from still remains a mystery, but the most popular idea is that there was an elementary school that kept rabbits and 8 of them were released and they reproduced and grew to this current number.
Unlike Tashirojima (or the cat island), you are allowed to feed the rabbits. You can bring food or buy it at a store on the island. The rabbits are extremely tame and friendly, so if you have food to feed, you are the star! They will flock around you. It’s cute but rather astonishing.
There is only one place to stay on the island: an inn called “Kyuka mura”. Even if you don’t stay there, you can still go to the restaurant inside of it where you can eat local seafood such as octopus and oysters.
In contrast to the cuteness of these fluffy creatures, the island is also known for its dark history. It used to be a military facility during World War 2 where toxic gas was manufactured and for confidentiality reasons, it once was removed from all Japanese maps.
(Photo from Flickr)
Miyagizaou Kitsune mura or Fox Village is a zoo/theme park that is located in Shiroishi city in Miyagi prefecture. Over 100 foxes of 6 species freely roam preserved woods, so you get to interact with them in a natural setting. You can buy food for the foxes for 100 yen, but there are several rules about when and how to feed them and how to interact with them (since they are wild), so be sure to follow the rules. The best times to visit the village are said to be May when you can see baby foxes and January when the foxes get more “fluffy”.
11-3 Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi city, Miyagi prefecture
Hours: Every day 9：00 ~17：00
Admission Fee: 1000yen
(Photo from photoAC)
Kinkazan Risu Mura or Squirrel Village is a zoo that is located at the top of Kinka mountain in Gifu city in Gifu prefecture. In order to get there, you have to take a ropeway, which offers a great view of the mountain. Over 100 squirrels are kept in open enclosures of 330㎡ in this village where you can feed and play with them. After paying the admission fee, you will be given a pair of gloves to protect your hands. As soon as the staff put food into your palm, the squirrel will flock toward you, or jump up onto your shoulder! Some might even run up your leg and climb to the food. The squirrels were originally wild but trained to be tame, so they’re safe for children too.
257, Senjojikishita, Gifu city, Gifu Prefecture
Hours: Every day 9：30 ~16：30
Admission Fee: 200 yen
How was that? Are you interested in visiting any of the places mentioned above? If you like animals or Kawaii stuff in general or simply want to feel relaxed, you should definitely give them a try!
Yoshi / Japan