Postcard from... Aoshima


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The Independent Online

An army of feral cats rules a remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one.

Originally introduced to the mile-long island of Aoshima to deal with mice that plagued fishermen’s boats, the cats stayed on – and multiplied.

More than 120 cats swarm the island with only a handful of humans for company, mostly pensioners who didn’t join the waves of migrants seeking work in the cities after the Second World War.

Aoshima, a 30-minute ferry ride off the coast of Ehime prefecture, was home to 900 people in 1945. The only sign of human activity now is the boatload of day-trippers from the mainland, visiting what is locally known as Cat Island. The cats survive on the rice balls, energy bars or potatoes provided by tourists.

Locals are trying to keep the feline population in check – at least 10 cats have been neutered – and they haven’t taken too kindly to the tourists. “If people coming to the island find the cats healing, then I think it’s a good thing,” said 65-year-old Hidenori Kamimoto, who ekes out a living as a fisherman. “I just hope that it’s done in a way that doesn’t become a burden on the people who live here.” REUTERS