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It's a cat's life on Aoshima, off the coast of Shikoku, one of Japan's four main islands.

It's a cat's life on Aoshima, off the coast of Shikoku, one of Japan's four main islands. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

On a small island off the coast of Ehime prefecture on Shikoku is a small island where cats clearly rule.

Approximately 200 semi-feral cats live on Aoshima, according to Nippon News. The feline population makes a likely attraction for cat lovers who come just to interact with them. The fishing village imported cats to keep the rodent population at bay, according to lore. Eventually the human population declined to the point where it’s outnumbered by their cats.

Local lore has it the inhabitants of the fishing village on Aoshima, Japan, imported cats to keep the rodent population at bay.

Local lore has it the inhabitants of the fishing village on Aoshima, Japan, imported cats to keep the rodent population at bay. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

Stepping off the ferry, you’ll notice blue lines on the pavement that will guide you to the areas designated for feeding and playing with the cats. Several benches are set aside for visitors, provided the cats haven’t already claimed them.

You’ll make plenty of new friends if you remember to pack plenty of cat food on your trip. I brought several different cans of cat food with me; it was a big hit. There are no restaurants or vending machines on the island, so pack a lunch and drinks for yourself.

Visitors who bring cat treats to Aoshima, Japan's island of cats, are always welcome.

Visitors who bring cat treats to Aoshima, Japan's island of cats, are always welcome. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

To reach Aoshima, take the ferry from Nagahama town on Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands. Free parking is available in a lot near the Nagahama ferry dock, which is also a five-minute walk from the Iyo-Nagahama Station.

The ferry schedule allows visitors two options for day trips to Aoshima. The first boat leaves at 8 a.m., which allows about seven hours on the island; a 2:30 p.m. boat will give you about an hour before boarding time for the last ferry of the day, which departs for Nagahama at 4:15 p.m.

If the 40-minute ferry ride is full in the morning no tickets will be offered for the afternoon ferry.

A round-trip ticket costs 1,400 yen, about $11.90 per adult and 350 yen, about $5.95, per child. Don’t miss the last ferry; no overnight lodging is available on Aoshima. If the weather is too rough for passage, ferry service may be suspended.

If you plan on staying for the whole day, there are some other activities on the island. A hike on the back part of the island will take a few hours to complete. Bring some fishing gear and drop a line from the pier; horse mackerel are commonly caught here.

There's more to do on a daytrip to Aoshima, Japan, than pet the cats. It's a good spot for some fishing.

There's more to do on a daytrip to Aoshima, Japan, than pet the cats. It's a good spot for some fishing. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

You could share your day’s catch with the cats; I’m sure they would appreciate it. There is also a small stone beach where you can swim. 

A small building next to the ferry dock has public restrooms. A metal cabinet there has drawers full of cat toys for visitors to entertain the cats. Visitors also deposit surplus cat food there.

ON THE QT

Location: Aoshima, a small island of the coast of Shikoku

Directions: Aoshima Ferry location - 1030−3 Nagahama, Ozu, Ehime 799-3401; free parking at  1030-16 Nagahama, Ozu, Ehime 795-0000

Hours: 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. departures from Nagahama

Costs: Round-trip ferry tickets cost $11.90 adult and $5.95 children

Food: None

Information: Online: www.city.ozu.ehime.jp/soshiki/nagahamash/0375.html

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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.
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