The small Japanese island of Tashirojima has been dubbed ‘Cat Heaven’ by visitors. Home to only one hundred people, cats far outnumber humans in the tiny fishing village.
Cats were originally brought to the island to keep the mice population in check as the rodents were predators of the silkworms that were raised to spin silk to make nets. Over time, the population has aged and the silk farms have vanished – however the cats have remained and their numbers have exploded.
The remaining locals, mostly in their seventies, pamper the cats and feed them fish. It is believed, in line with Japanese folklore, the cats bring good luck and prosperity. The fishermen also examine the behaviour of the cats to determine weather and fish patterns, which they believe they are able to predict.
For five years photographer Fubirai followed the cats around the village and captured snapshots of their daily lives. His recently published shots have now gone viral.
The island’s cat obsession manifests even in its architecture, with several cat-shaped buildings dotting the island.
The village rose to fame through the efforts of a couple who moved to the island from Sendai. They opened an inn called Hamaya for travellers and launched a blog in 2006 about the island and its inhabitants. A movie was made later that year about one of the cats on the island, Droopy-Eared Jack, with three sequels following which each updated fans on the turns of Jack’s life.
Tourism for the island is now booming as visitors flock internationally to see the feline paradise for themselves. Many package tours take tourists to search amongst the many thousands of cats that call the island home in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous Jack.
Of course, since it is cat heaven, no dogs are allowed!