Animal islands in Japan
Welcome readers to what is already our fifth installment of ‘6 unusual but fantastic places in Japan’. Today we take a peek at the places that are devoted to the hairy, the fanged and the cute. I’m of course talking about animals. Animal worship is no strange thing in Japan and the following places are a tribute to that. Without further ado, let’s get our inner beast ready to go to these places!
A short ferry ride away from Ishinomaki (石巻市) in the Miyagi prefecture lies an island where paws are abundant and milk flows richly. Cats are lord and master here and dogs are not allowed to set foot upon this island. Originally silk was produced here and cats were introduced in the late Edo period (1603-1868) to protect the silk worms from mice. Slowly the cats grew in numbers and the human population dwindled. Once, after fisherman accidentally killed a cat, they buried it and enshrined it in a cat shrine or nekojinja, which can still be found in the middle of the island today.
Lastly the island is also known as ‘manga island’ because a manga-themed camping can be found there. This camping is filled with several cat-shaped cottages decorated with artwork by various manga artists.
The rabbit controls this land and not even cats may set foot on this soil. If you enjoy fluffy bunnies then this is the place to be for you! The island, located in the Hiroshima prefecture, has a rather grim history however: it used to be the location of a factory of poison gas. In the late twenties it produced more than six kilotons of mustard gas and tear gas, and rabbits were used in an experiment testing the effectiveness of the gas. These rabbits were all killed when the factory was destroyed. If interested, you can visit the Poison Gas Museum located on the island.
After World War II the island was developed as a park and many new rabbits were set loose on the island. Now there is a hotel, a camping ground and a six-hole golf course ready to be visited.
We return to the Miyagi prefecture, but this time to the mainland. Near Shiroishi (白石市) the Zao Fox Village is waiting for you to visit and see its six different breeds of foxes. For a mere 100 yen you can buy small packages of food to feed them. Take caution however, because these are still wild animals, and hand feeding is not encouraged. You can, however, touch and pet them and other animals in the first part of the village, where a small petting zoo is located. Bold adventurers venture forth and explore the rest of the village, which is also a scenic route into the Miyagi mountains.
And that was our quick peek at various places where the animal is king. Have you ever been to these places? Or do you have any more questions or remarks? Don’t be afraid to say it in the comments or send us a mail! Don’t forget to join us in two weeks for our final part in the series! Inari out.