The huge earthquake and tsunami of 2011 devastated Japan’s Tohoku region but a national park full of cats and deer is playing a major role in the area’s recovery.
As you arrive on Tashirojima you soon realise why it’s referred to as Cat Island. Originally brought in to deal with a mouse infestation, today, the felines outnumber the island’s human residents by four to one.
“Sericulture used to be very popular here … so to protect them [silkworms], we kept cats,” local fisherman Hama Yutaka told Euronews.
Tashirojima is located inside Japan’s Sanriku Fukko Reconstruction National Park. Stretching around 220km along the country’s stunning northeastern Pacific coast, the park was established to help rebuild the region after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011. And the cats are playing their part in attracting visitors to this remote part of the country.
“Because there are many cats, many tourists come here, and it makes the island very dynamic. They are very important friends and Tashiro Island without cats would not be Tashiro Island,” Hama Yutaka explains.
Just like their furry friends on Tashirojima, hundreds of sacred deer on the nearby Kinkasan Island are also drawing in visitors to the region. Said to be divine messengers of the gods, the deer roam freely around an eighth-century Shinto shrine.
The monument is said to be one of Japan’s holiest sites and legend has it that if you come to pray here for three consecutive years, you won’t have to worry about money for the rest of your life.