Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Japanese Food Adventure Chapter 3 - Day 7. Tashirojima (Cat Island)

We were out of the hotel before 6am this morning and too early to catch the hotel breakfast, so we grabbed a coffee and made our way to Sendai Station.

It was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day which was perfect as today we were visiting Tashirojima (Cat Island)

In order to catch the 9am ferry from Ishinomaki to Tashirojima we needed to catch the 6.32am train to Ishinomaki. 

The train line runs beside the coast and gives you great views of all the tiny Islands in this area.

Ishinomaki was a fascinating place but we had no time to stop and admire it, we needed to get to the ferry port which was 30 minutes walk away.

At the ferry port we bought our ferry ticket which cost us ¥1230 (£8.20) per person one way. If you're thinking of visiting Tashirojima then I suggest checking out this website which I found really useful for planning our trip. There are only two ferries to and from the island each day so you really need to make sure you catch the early ferry there and you don't miss the later ferry back. 

Before boarding the ferry I finally got to eat my breakfast that I'd bought back in Sendai. It's ok to eat on the Shinkansen but on local trains eating or drinking anything other than water should be avoided. I lost count at how many times I peeped into my carrier bag on the train longing to eat this. I recall this costing about ¥380 (£2.50) and containing inarizushi, rice balls, chicken, squid, sausage and egg. 

The ferry to Nitoda Port on Tashirojima takes about 45 minutes. There's also another port (Oodomari) on the island but it was currently closed whilst it was being refurbished.

To start with the boat cruises along at a steady pace but as soon as we were out of the port the captain opens up the throttle.

There was a vending machine on board the boat where I bought this Suntory strawberry drink, It tasted just like strawberry Nesquik.

With getting up so early I thought that perhaps a Pepsi Refresh Shot might wake me up a bit. It contains double the amount of caffeine compared to a standard can of Pepsi.

Tashirojima was in sight ahead, It's become known as "Cat Island" due to the large stray cat population that thrives as a result of the local belief that feeding cats will bring wealth and good fortune. 

Nitoda Port has been rebuilt as it got severely damaged in the 2011 Tsunami, there's still lots of ongoing work happening in and around the Port. 

Cat Island even has it's own cat themed construction barriers.

The population of the island (about 100 people) is slowly decreasing whilst the cats keep multiplying. Everywhere you look around the Nitoda Port area you can see cats and cat related things.

The cats seem fairly friendly and will soon come and find you in the hope you may have some food for them. In our hurry to get here though we forgot to buy some cat treats and you can't buy them on the island so we could only offer them a stroke. From what we could see though the cats are fed each day by the locals on the island and visiting tourists.

The tsunami damage was plain to see around the lower parts of the island, many houses had since been abandoned. 

We found just one shop on the island which is where my wife bought this soda drink. Every time you drink from the bottle the marble stops the flow so you get a tiny sip at a time, it lasted her ages! There are a few vending machines on the island but only by the port area so be sure to stock up on drinks if you plan to explore the island for a few hours.

Cats seemed to be watching us from everywhere!

This used to be the local shop, since the tsunami it appears to have remained closed.

We were given a map of the island at the ferry port before boarding the ferry in Ishinomaki. We worked out the route we would take around the island and made our way towards Manga Island where initially we'd hoped to spend a night. When we arrived there were cats everywhere, these weren't the cats we were looking for though.

This was what we were looking for.

Manga Island is an area of Tashirojima where visitors can stay on the island in cat shaped chalets.

We were determined to stay in one of these chalets and had contacted Manga Island about six months ago with an enquiry to stay in one for just one night. We did hear back and emailed them our application form but sadly never heard back again. I can only guess something was lost in translation, I have no idea how you get to stay in one of these places.

It's a shame as we'd have loved to have woken up in the morning to this stunning view. Oh well, at least we got to see these incredible cat chalets from the outside.

Having got up so early we were feeling the same! We had limited time to get around the island though so there was no time for a nap.

The routes around the island seem quite easy to follow, many of them have clear pathways.

We encountered a few damaged and abandoned things as we walked around the island.

There's plenty of opportunities to leave the main path and venture off down smaller tracks, just watch out for the spiders though, they're everywhere!

It was time for a bite to eat, my wife had a salad and I had a spaghetti roll.

The spaghetti roll and salad may not have been the most exciting of lunches but just look at the view we had whilst eating it!

For a few hours we explored the island without seeing another person. Most of the other people on the ferry seemed to spend their time here exploring the port area but we were keen to walk right around the island.

This toilet had seen better days! It offered no privacy and it's inhabitants were ensuring nobody would enter.

Anyone wanting to use this toilet would have to get past the spiders that had cast webs across the front of it.

Anyone that dared to use it would have been treated to a stunning view though!

Everywhere we walked on the island we were never very far away from spiders. They didn't bother us and we didn't bother them, being terrified of spiders though they did freak me out a bit.

As we made our way around Tashirojima we came across the cat shrine close to Nitoda Port. The shrine was built many tears ago by fisherman as an apology to their cats.

Apparently when the fishermen were preparing their nets they disturbed a pile of rocks and one fell which killed a cat. The fishermen felt so bad they enshrined the cat here and visitors have left presents ever since. 

The island desperately needs more visitors but has very little to offer in the way of facilities. This is starting to slowly improve though and we saw some areas being renovated since the tsunami. This was a cafe which looked like it had only recently opened, nearby was a brand new block of public toilets that had just opened.

Perhaps in time the old store will reopen again too.

This was the only shop currently open on the island. It sold a small selection of Tashirojima souvenirs, snacks and drinks. It also had a gallery of photographs showing the island before and after the 2011 tsunami.

A bought these in the shop for just ¥50 (33p), a bit like wotsits with a herby flavour.

We spent four and a half hours exploring Tashirojima which was just enough time to explore the island before catching the ferry back to Ishinomaki. 

On the journey back my wife had a nap downstairs whilst I watched Tashirojima disappear into the distance. 

Having rushed through Ishinomaki this morning it was now time to explore it at a more leisurely pace. It was seriously damaged in 2011 with about 46% of it effected by the tsunami. Although much of it has since been rebuilt the damage is still evident throughout the city.

Something we noticed earlier in the day was these Manga Characters which line the streets of Ishinomaki.

We later discovered that Manga artist and author Shotaro Ishinomori was born here and Ishinomaki was home to the Manga Museum which opened in 2001.

These Manga characters line the streets from the train station all the way to the museum which is located by the port.

Before leaving my wife added another stamp to her note book. These stamps can be found at many train stations and places of interest throughout Japan.

Back in Sendai we decided to stop at the train station. My wife had been struggling to find good vegan options and had read about a vegan restaurant called T's Tantan. It was quite tricky to find but eventually we spotted it in the basement.

There was a vast selection of dishes including ramen and curries on the menu. The set menu seemed to be the best plan though and with prices not exceeding ¥980 (£6.50) it was excellent value for money.

We started with a Kiri Heartland beer, incredibly creamy and ¥600 (£4) a glass.

My wife chose the Chinese style fried chicken and I opted for the twice cooked pork, both made using soy meat. 

The soy meat used in the twice cooked pork had a remarkably similar texture to pork. It was coated in a light batter and covered in a sweet and tangy sauce. Cabbage, onions and peppers accompanied it nicely, a thoroughly enjoyable dish.

The potato salad was made using mustard and crunchy vegetables.

The meal included a generous serving of sticky rice.

The soup was a bit disappointing though, Batchelors cup a soup sprang to mind. 

Finally the gyoza, often they're served fried and known as potstickers. Here they were served steamed though and contained a delicious vegetable filling. 

Back at the hotel I decided to end the day with a Suntory Highball (Whiskey and soda) and a Sendai Soul Cocktail, a bit like Lilt but less sweet and with alcohol added.

With a supermarket opposite the hotel I couldn't resist searching for more food and drink. This was a long slice of bread covered in scrambled eggs and bacon, seriously good and just ¥120 (80p)

I also managed to pick up a reduced bento box and can of beer for just ¥260 (£1.75)
There were certainly some bargains to be had but Wayne Bickell on my Facebook Page pointed out how cheap and nasty the beer I'd chosen was, to be fair he had a good point!

Click here for Day 8


  1. I believe there's a trick with the soda bottles. There are indentations on one side of the neck that hold the marble back that let you take a proper drink - you just have tip it a certain way.

    1. Ah yes! I can see the indentations now, good to know for next time. 😊

  2. Well the cats are certainly experiencing wealth and good fortune lol.

  3. Those spiders have such vivid colours and markings, look deadly as hell though. After a quick search they seem to be Joro spiders that weave golden webs.

  4. The marble soda drink is ramune: my kids' favourite. With some of the bottles, if you twist the top counter-clockwise you can get the top off and the marble out...