Tashirojima, a remote island belonging to Ishimaki City of Miyagi prefecture is known as “Cat Island”, has a cat population of more than 100 which exceeds its human population on the island. Fishermen on this island called for help to cat lovers across the nation and established Island Reconstruction Fund to help themselves recover from the damages caused by Great East Japan Earthquake that hit the area on March 11, 2011.
The fishermen promised that they will ‘Bring back the island to a state cats and humans live without any worries’.
The number of inhabitants on the island is 95. A 70-year-old woman went missing, their oyster farms were completely destroyed and houses along the coast and piers for ferries were washed away all because of the Tsunami. The water pipes were also damaged and they still don’t have running water as of this moment.
According to Mr. Yutaka Hamaatsu, a fisherman who also runs a small local hotel ‘Gyoshimin Hamaya’ on the island, more than 10 cats suddenly disappeared right after the earthquake on March 11, but they were safe hiding up in the mountain. However, the number of cats coming close to the harbor has substantially decreased from the fear for tsunami today.
When silk farming was once popular, cats were brought into this island for hunting mouse. On the island, there is even a shrine dedicated to cats. When Cat Island was taken up in one TV station, it started to draw attention. On the island where 80% of the inhabitants are more than 65-year-old, the number of tourists has jumped to 12,300 in 2010, some four times more than that of 3,200 tourists in 2008.
Note from the author: Island Reconstruction Fund welcomes donations of 10,000yen(approximately US$80) for one share. With the donations, fishermen can purchase equipment and other necessary tools for rebuilding their fishing industry on the island again. Those who donate will receive oysters (once they can farm again), ‘cat goods’ (such as a key chain with cat mascot) and ‘cat talismans’ in return. As it takes such a long time to wait for help from the government for reconstruction, I think this is a great concept. Hope they will manage to rebuild themselves soon.