Cat Island Seeks Disaster Relief Donations

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    Tashirojima, Miyagi’s famous “cat island,” is in trouble. Although most of the cats survived the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, it inflicted heavy damage on the small community. The livelihood of the islander’s residents is at risk:

    Local residents say islanders began keeping cats to get rid of mice when the silk industry was thriving on Tashirojima. A local shrine is even named Neko Jinja (cat shrine). A few years ago, a Tokyo-based TV station featured Tashirojima in a program, and the island has been well-known for its unique population ever since.

    The community is in a precarious state, as about 80 percent of its residents are 65 years old or older, but the tourist trade is thriving–about 3,200 visitors came in 2008 but nearly 12,300 came last year.

    The island’s fishermen have not been able to work since the disaster. Since the cats were usually fed with tiny fish from their catches, they now have to rely on cat food donations. The situation prompted Hama and other islanders to ponder how they could collect funds to both rebuild the fishing industry and keep their furry friends fed.

    In their plan, which focuses on the nation’s cat-lovers, people can become owners of oysters and other marine products the island produces in exchange for aid money. Donations are accepted in 10,000 yen lots, and Hama and his fellows aim to collect 150 million yen. Contributors will receive oysters and cat-related goods from the shrine. The cats will also be featured in a blog.

    The official website of the project to save Tashiro island can be found here(NyanPro.com).

    At this time, the site is only in Japanese and they don’t seem to have a system in place to accept international donations. Those that can read Japanese can order a 10,000 yen oyster set on this page.

    Here is a video of the island before the tsunami:

    And here is are a few clips of the island after the tsunami:


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