Have you ever heard of the island in Japan that’s teeming with friendly wild cats? Cat lovers, rejoice! This island is truly something special, brimming with adorable cats of all kinds, eagerly waiting for you to pamper them with treats. They roam around all day, living the best feline life imaginable, while receiving unlimited affection from visitors to the island.
In this post, I’ll guide you on how to reach the island and share my experiences visiting this amazing place. Most readers will be pleased to learn that it’s an affordable and enjoyable activity. Be sure to visit Ainoshima Island the next time you find yourself in Japan; it will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your trip!
Where is Ainoshima Island located?
Ainoshima Island is situated just off the coast of Fukuoka, in the southwestern region of Japan. It’s easily accessible via a ferry service that operates throughout the day, departing from Shingu Port.
For the exact location of Ainoshima Island on Google Maps, visit this link: Google Maps Location of Ainoshima Island
How do I get to the Island?
- Getting to Shingu Port via train and bus
To get to this port you can take the train system to Nishitetsu-Shingu Station (https://maps.app.goo.gl/Qsn8XaxWQACm6dco7)
At the station, you can board a bus that goes straight to Shingu Port. The bus stop is just on the left side when you exit the station, look for the signage or ask the station attendant if you need help. Alternatively, you can walk 20 minutes to the port and enjoy the scenery along the way.
- Buy a ticket for the ferry
To purchase a ticket, simply use the ticket machine and select the “English” language option. The cost is 480 Yen per adult and 240 Yen per child. Insert your money, and you’ll receive a ticket and change – it’s easy!
One important thing to note: You can only purchase one-way tickets to the island at the time of departure. You’ll need to buy a separate return ticket when you’re leaving the island.
Departure times vary depending on whether it’s Spring/Summer or Fall/Winter. This information will be posted on the board inside the port station. In the photo below, I traveled during October 2023, so the ferry was operating on the Spring/Summer schedule, as indicated on the left side of the board, marked in a red box.
- Keep a close eye on your ferry departure time and head to the port when it’s just 15 minutes prior to departure. There won’t be an obvious indication that it’s time to board. Although there is a station attendant present, they may not actively announce when boarding is ready.
- If you’re prone to motion sickness, it’s a good idea to take medication before the ferry ride. Barf bags are available on board if needed. When it’s windy, the journey can get quite bumpy, as was the case on my ride. Due to the small size of the ferry, it can navigate through large waves, causing significant up and down motions. I experienced seasickness, so I wanted to give you a heads-up.
- Enjoy the ferry ride, which will take approximately 40 minutes to reach the island. The ferry is equipped with amenities like water and a TV on board. If you’d like to experience the refreshing breeze, you can head to the upper deck.
When it’s time to head back, locate the port station near the harbor where you can purchase your return ticket. Be sure to keep a close eye on the departure schedule. Missing your ferry could mean a wait of several hours for the next one!
Experiences on Ainoshima Island
Cat feeding and interactions:
A visit to this small island allows you to explore its natural beauty, and if you’re up for it, you can stroll around the entire island in a single day. Don’t forget your walking shoes! While you’re here, you can enjoy sightseeing, interact with and feed the friendly feral cats, and savor delicious meals at local “homestyle” restaurants.
As you explore the island, you’ll notice elegant hawks soaring through the air. They are a common sight on the island and, though harmless, can sometimes swoop down to snatch food from your hands. However, the main attraction on the island is undoubtedly the adorable feral cats. They enjoy lounging in the shade but are eager to approach you when you offer them snacks. They also love being petted – it’s incredibly endearing. Before your visit, I recommend stopping by a local supermarket or 7-11 to pick up some cat food and treats.
Tip: Interestingly, these island cats don’t seem to have a preference for fish treats, perhaps because they receive plenty from the local fishermen who reside on the island. The locals also feed these wild cats, but they’re always eager for extra treats!
Dining at Local Restaurants:
Once you’ve spent a day exploring the island, take a moment to unwind and savor the culinary delights at the charming restaurants near the harbor. These eateries are typically operated by local families who call the island home. I dined at one called “Maruyama,” run by three delightful ladies. The food they served was not only delicious but also offered a taste of genuine homestyle cooking. Best of all, it won’t put a dent in your wallet, making it a great way to end an enjoyable day. The servings are generous, and the prices are budget-friendly. If you’ve already had your fill, you can indulge in some delightful sweets at the neighboring spot, which offers ice cream and refreshing milk tea drinks for sale.
My Day Trip on Ainoshima Island
I arrived at Shingu Port at 10:36 am, and the next scheduled ferry is at 11:30 am. Purchasing a ticket is a breeze; just insert your money into the machine, and you’ll receive your change. It’s incredibly convenient!
In true Japanese fashion, a station attendant is available for assistance, though most of the time, they’re not needed, as there are clear signs guiding you through the boarding process. It’s like a self-serve experience, similar to the concept of vending machine restaurants.
While waiting for the ferry to arrive, I relaxed in the waiting area, where I found plenty of comfortable seats, washrooms, a TV, and vending machines just outside in case I got thirsty. It’s quite convenient!
Oh, and to my surprise, a feral cat walked in and settled on one of the seats for a nap. How delightful! I also noticed a shy grey cat lurking outside behind a pillar. I wonder what has captured its attention?
Riding the Ferry
Boarding the ferry was a breeze. I simply walked through the tented tunnel outside, which led straight to the docks and the awaiting vessel.
The ferry was exceptionally clean, and you have the option to go up to the upper decks if you seek the full sea experience with the wind in your hair. However, I chose the lower deck with comfortable seating because, based on past experience, I know that you can get quite wet from splashing water when encountering large waves. As it turned out, this choice was ideal for this trip, as the waves were quite intense. I came close to feeling seasick, and it was reassuring to see that barf bags were available on board because, judging by the expressions of those around me, I wasn’t the only one.
After about 40 minutes, we reached Ainoshima Island, and a collective sigh of relief was felt as we disembarked. It took another 20 minutes of walking on solid ground to regain our sea legs. From that point on, the trip was a lot of fun!
Experiencing the Cat Island
Right after disembarking from the ferry, I had the privilege of witnessing a heartwarming moment between a cat and a fisherman. This particular cat was patiently waiting for a catch, hoping for a tasty treat. It was an absolutely adorable scene to behold. I’m not certain about the type of fish the fisherman was catching, but it appeared to be a small, silvery fish, roughly the size of a hand and quite thin—certainly not a very large fish.
As you explore the island, you’ll encounter a diverse range of friendly cats. They enjoy lounging in the shade and eagerly gather around tourists who offer them treats. Prepare to be serenaded by a chorus of adorable purrs and meows. There are chubby cats, slender cats, black cats, spotted cats – every imaginable type of cat to melt your heart!
Interestingly, an unexpected visitor from Thailand, a Tuk Tuk, has somehow found its way onto the island…
Relaxing at the Local Restaurant
I enjoyed a meal at a charming local eatery named Maruyama. It’s a cozy place that specializes in preparing authentic Japanese home-style dishes. I tried the sashimi made from the freshest catch of the day and the delightful seafood udon champon. The food was satisfying and left me with a contented belly.
After lunch, it was time to wander around the island and visit its feline residents. Many of them were comfortably nestled in the shade, taking daytime naps. If you offer them some food, they’ll gladly rouse from their slumber to greet you.
It’s important to keep an eye on the time for the return ferries, as they run less frequently. Missing one could mean a wait of around 2 hours for the next departure.
Exploring Cat Island can be done in half a day or less, depending on how much you want to explore on foot. Most amenities and food options are concentrated around the dock area, but there’s an abundance of nature waiting to be explored in other parts of the island.
Heading Back Home
As the sun began to set, it was time to say goodbye to Ainoshima Island after a delightful few hours spent there. I purchased another one-way ticket and made my way back to the ferry for the return journey. The ride back provided a serene opportunity to reflect on the charming experiences I had on this unique island.
From the friendly cats to the local cuisine and the captivating natural beauty, my visit to Ainoshima Island was a truly memorable and enjoyable day. It’s a place that caters not only to cat lovers but also to those seeking a serene escape from the bustling city, offering a glimpse into a simpler and more peaceful way of life. If you ever find yourself in Japan, I wholeheartedly recommend including a visit to Ainoshima Island on your itinerary. It’s an experience that is sure to leave you with lasting memories and a smile on your face.